At least 368 gymnasts throughout the USA have alleged being the victim of some form of sexual abuse over the past 20 years, according to police files and court cases obtained throughout the nine-month investigation.
Not only did top officials at USA Gymnastics-the Olympic arm of the sport-fail to report numerous allegations to police, but in some cases, its lack of systematic oversight allowed predatory coaches and staff to move from one gym to the next.
The Star report found that the problem of sexual abuse at US gymnastics facilities is exacerbated by a number of issues, one being USA Gymnastics' emphasis on educating members about sexual abuse instead of setting up and enforcing strict rules that would combat it.
The majority of the victims, who are mostly girls, are children. "Sexual abuse thrives on the fact that people are embarrassed about the topic, ashamed to talk about it, and they keep quiet about it", Nancy Hogshead-Makar, chief executive of the advocacy group Champion Women and a former Olympic swimmer, told the Star.
It's very serious. It's just too easy for coaches to keep getting hired and hired and hired.
Gymnastics coach Phillip Paige Bishop was convicted in MI of second-degree criminal sexual conduct for molesting a 10-year-old girl in 2010.
"Nothing is more important to U.S. and CEO Steve Penny than protecting athletes, which requires sustained vigilance by everyone - coaches, athletes, parents, administrators and officials", the organization said, according to the Star.
In a statement released to Indianapolis Star, USA Gymnastics mentioned several initiatives to create a safer environment for gymnasts, including coach background checks and educational materials.
"Addressing instances of sexual misconduct has been a top priority for USA Gymnastics for years, and we are wholly committed to promoting a safe environment for athletes". But the Star countered that USA Gymnastics' focus on educating members instead of setting ground rules and enforcing them has engendered an epidemic: the equivalent of one allegation every 20 days over the last two decades. There are also conflicts of interest for reporting abuse for gym owners.
USA Gymnastics reacted swiftly to the report, noting that the body's policies "mandate that when anyone affiliated with USA Gymnastics or member clubs suspect potential abuse, the appropriate legal authorities should be notified".
The reporters accuse USA Gymnastics of working to keep the details of some cases secret.