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Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) thinks the law that governs Olympic sports organizations in America leaves child athletes at risk of abuse. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The recent revelations of decades of child sexual abuse within USA Gymnastics has created a firestorm. The spotlight has given increased awareness to the fact that “six Olympic sport governing bodies have been beset over the years by allegations of mishandled complaints of abuse,” according to the Washington Post.

In other words, cases of sexual abuse by members associated with such organizations as USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming, USA Taekwando and U.S. Speedskating have been essentially hushed up over the years.

See this link for the first part of my posts on sexual abuse in USA Gymnastics.

And now the US Government is getting involved, and their sights are on the United States Olympics Committee (USOC). On February 21, 2017, Senator Diane Feinstein of California announced that she wants her colleagues to agree on an amendment to a federal law that governs Olympic sports organizations – The Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act. This law was passed in 1978 in order to have a single governing body (USOC) manage the various individual national sports organizations, as well as assist in the process of selecting Olympic team members.

But what has been recently understood is that when suspicions of abuse emerge, the USOC’s policy has been one of passivity and reactivity, and that language in the Ted Stevens Act“has been interpreted by lawyers to afford coaches suspected of sexual abuse more rights than they would have if they worked in other industries.”

The Ted Stevens Act requires an Olympic governing body give fair notice, due process and a hearing to any member athlete, coach, or official it wants to ban; requirements that have sometimes prevented governing bodies from banning coaches suspected of abuse. Other youth-serving organizations, such as the Boy Scouts of America, have policies requiring swift actions when abuse is suspected, always erring in favor of protecting children from harm.

Senator Feinstein’s objective is to re-write the law so that any governing body affiliated with an Olympic governing organization must report cases of sexual abuse immediately to law enforcement authorities, as well as prevent the common practice of rotating a suspected child abuser from one club to another without any official record.

On March 2, US senators put considerably more pressure on the chief executive of the USOC, Scott Blackmun, to provide greater detail about how the USOC has handled these allegations of sexual abuse. In a letter from Senator John Thune of South Dakota and Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas to Blackmun, they say they have “serious concerns about the extent to which the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) is meeting its mandate to protect the health and safety of athletes.”

If you want to be the best, you need to train like the best. Here is a link to a great self-help article on the strength and flexibility exercises that Olympians use. In trying to understand these exercises, I did an image search so that you can see what the article is trying to describe.

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Recommended by Carrie Gaerte

Carrie Gaerte is a physical therapist and athletic trainer for USA Gymnastics, and she recommends the seated spinal stretch, the reclined half-pigeon and the achilles extension.

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Exercises recommended by Team USA water polo athletes

Water polo athletes, Kami Craig, Courtney Mathewson and KK Clark build their strength and endurance with these routines: the leveled plank, the dumbbell step up, and the step jump.

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Exercises recommended by coach of gold medal-winning wrestler Helen Maroulis

The coach of gold-medal winning wrestler, Helen Maroulis, recommends push ups, the dumbbell row and the pause squat in Maroulis’ training regimen.

Go on. Get crackin’!

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My focus in this post is primarily on Japan, so get your Japanese cultural lessons here:

 

Usain Bolt and the Holy Redeemer

    Usain Bolt and the Holy Redeemer

The bigger picture at the Rio Olympics:

Cambridge Bolt and Brommel

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The great American diver, Sammy Lee

In memory of Olympians or people significantly connected to the Olympics who passed away in 2016.

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Triumphant Vera Caslavaska in Mexico City

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about the revelations by The Indianapolis Star of sexual abuse of teenagers and pre-teens by coaches and officials within and affiliated with USA Gymnastics.

At the time, IndyStar was aware of about 50 cases. Now they report they have uncovered through police files and court case documentation that hundreds of gymnasts have been abused in the past 20 years.

“At least 368 gymnasts have alleged some form of sexual abuse at the hands of their coaches, gym owners and other adults working in gymnastics. That’s a rate of one every 20 days. And it’s likely an undercount.”

The IndyStar’s most recent article on this travesty provides a fascinating analysis of a sports organization and its affiliated officials, coaches, and gym owners in denial. Here is a good chunk of that shocking analysis in full:

  • USA Gymnastics focuses its efforts to stop sexual abuse on educating members instead of setting strict ground rules and enforcing them. It says it can’t take aggressive action because member gyms are independent businesses and because of restrictions in federal law pertaining to Olympic organizations. Both are contentions others dispute.
  • Gym owners have a conflict of interest when it comes to reporting abuse. Some fear harm to their business. When confronted with evidence of abuse, many quietly have fired the suspected abusers and failed to warn future employers. Some of those dangerous coaches continued to work with children.
  • Some coaches are fired at gym after gym without being tracked or flagged by USA Gymnastics, or losing their membership with the organization. USA Gymnastics often has no idea when a coach is fired by a gym and no systematic way to keep track. Ray Adams was fired or forced to resign from six gyms in four states. Yet some gym owners hired Adams, believing his record was clean.
  • Though the vast majority of officials put children’s well-being ahead of business and competition, some officials at every level have not. Coaches suspected of abuse kept their jobs as long as they accepted special monitoring. Others were allowed to finish their season before being fired. In 2009, Doug Boger was named a USA Gymnastics Coach of the Year and was sent to international competition while under investigation for alleged sexual abuse.
  • Victims’ stories have been treated with skepticism by USA Gymnastics officials, gym owners, coaches and parents. Former gymnasts Charmaine Carnes and Jennifer Sey said they felt pressured by Penny not to pursue allegations of abuse by prominent coaches Don Peters and Boger. Carnes said she thought Penny tried to keep the claims about Boger quiet for as long as possible to protect the sport’s image and win championships, a characterization that USA Gymnastics disputes.

Women’s gymnastics have made tremendous strides, winning team gold at the 2012 London Olympics as well as the 2016 Rio Olympics. But I’m curious – I’ve seen or read no reaction from the coaches and athletes at the apex of the USA Gymnastics pyramid: the Karolyis, the members of the women’s Olympic gymnastics team, and their parents. Their silence may be the result of counsel provided to them by the advisors that surround them. But at some point, they need to lead in this pivotal moment, this crisis of confidence in women’s gymnastics.

The Silent Shame Part 1: USA Gymnastics Ignored Sexual Abuse Allegations

The Silent Shame Part 2: Why Would / How Could Leaders of USA Gymnastics Stay Silent in the Face of Sexual Abuse Allegations?

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Thanks to The Indianapolis Star, we now know that leaders in USA Gymnastics, the governing body for gymnastics in America, were aware of coaches who sexually abused female gymnasts over the past two decades at least, many of whom were under-aged. We also know that USA Gymnastics did little to prevent further abuse unless a parent or the police pushed them to act.

According to The Indianapolis Star, USA Gymnastics have detailed and sometimes voluminous documentation on coaches accused of sexual abuse, but those documents have not yet been disclosed by USA Gymnastics. We know about these cases today primarily because the journalists of the Indy Star went through police and court records, uncovering details of the cases. They also learned about a so-called policy that provided the rationale for USA Gymnastics officials not to take any action despite knowledge of the abuse.

Current USA Gymnastics president, Steve Penny, in a court deposition said “to the best of my knowledge, there’s no duty to report if you are…if you are a third party to some allegation.” Penny’s predecessor, Robert Colarossi, stated that a reason not to report abuse to the police was “concern about potential damage to a coach’s reputation if an allegation proved false,” and that he “inherited an executive policy of dismissing complaints as ‘hearsay’ unless they were signed by a victim or victim’s parent – a policy that experts said could deter people from reporting abuse. It’s not clear exactly when that policy was created or by whom.”

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The Leadership Council on Child Abuse & Interpersonal Violence is a nonprofit organization that focuses on scientifically research-based explanations for mental health issues. In one of their articles, entitled “Eight Common Myths About Child Sexual Abuse“, the Leadership Council gives insight into why many of us allow sexual abuse to continue.

Few people are aware of the true state of the science on child abuse. Instead, most people’s beliefs have been shaped by common misconceptions and popular myths about this hidden crime. Societal acceptance of these myths assists sex offenders by silencing victims and encouraging public denial about the true nature of sexual assaults against children. The Leadership Council prepared this analysis because we believe that society as a whole benefits when the public has access to accurate information regarding child abuse and other forms of interpersonal violence.

Here is the list of myths:

  • Myth 1:  Normal-appearing, well educated, middle-class people don’t molest children.
  • Myth 2:  People are too quick to believe an abuser is guilty, even if there is no supporting evidence.
  • Myth 3:  Child molesters molest indiscriminately.
  • Myth 4:  Children who are being abused would immediately tell their parents.
  • Myth 5:  Children who are being abused will show physical evidence of abuse.
  • Myth 6:  Hundreds of innocent men and women have been falsely accused and sent to prison for molesting children.
  • Myth 7:  If asked about abuse, children tend to exaggerate and are prone to making false accusations.
  • Myth 8:  By using repeated interviews, therapists or police can easily implant false memories and cause false accusations among children of any age.

I could only presume, but if we consider the leaders of USA Gymnastics to be of normal mental health, then they too accept many of the myths above as fact. In many cases, I’m sure they took the word of the coach’s over the children.

  • “Where’s the proof?”
  • “These are normal-appearing, well-educated men. Can’t be true.”
  • “If a child was really being abused, she would definitely have told her parents.”
  • “And what would happen if we falsely accused a coach? Oh, the shame.”

Yes. Oh, the shame.

 

For facts and more myths on child abuse in America, see The National Child Traumatic Stress Network Fact sheet.

The Silent Shame Part 1: USA Gymnastics Ignored Sexual Abuse Allegations

The Silent Shame Part 3: New Sexual Abuse Allegations for USA Gymnastics