USA Gymnastics May Have a Sexual Assault Problem

August 4th 2016

Lucy Tiven

A bombshell of an investigative report just published on the Indianapolis Star reveals a troubling sexual-assault problem within the USA Gymnastics organization.


According to court records obtained by the Indy Star, USA Gymnastics had a policy of withholding certain types of sexual abuse reports about its coaches between 1996 and 2006.

The report states that USA gymnastics compiled sexual misconduct files on approximately 54 coaches during that time, but did not relay the information to authorities unless the complaints came directly from the victim or their parent or guardian.

It is not clear how many of those complaints were passed on to authorities and how many have been received since. However, according the documents, four of the coaches who USA Gymnastics were warned about would be arrested for subsequently abusing as many as 14 children.


In one of the court cases, USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny and former president Robert Colarossi testified under oath that the group's hesitance to report was partially due to concerns that false allegations would tarnish coaches' reputations.

Colarossi admitted that the organization had a policy of dismissing complaints that did come directly from a victim or their parent.


Coach William McCabe serves as a particularly disturbing example of someone who would commit sexual assault under the watch of USA Gymnastics.

The IndyStar reports:

"USA Gymnastics received at least four complaints about coach William McCabe as early as 1998. One gym owner warned the organization in 1998 that McCabe “should be locked in a cage before someone is raped.” USA Gymnastics never reported the allegations to police and, according to federal authorities, he began molesting an underage girl in 1999. McCabe continued to coach children for nearly seven more years, until Lisa Ganser went to the FBI with concerns about emails to her then-11-year-old daughter. McCabe was charged with molesting gymnasts, secretly videotaping girls changing clothes and posting their naked pictures on the internet. He pleaded guilty in 2006 in Savannah, Georgia, to federal charges of sexual exploitation of children and making false statements. He is serving a 30-year sentence."

“USAG may not have been the hand that ultimately abused these innocent children,” Indiana attorney Shelley Haymaker told the Indy Star. “But it was definitely the arm.”

USA Gymnastics' headquarters are in Indiana, where reporting suspected child abuse is required by law. This pertains not only to individuals, but also to sports organizations, coaches, and gym owners. It does exclude claims from third parties.

It does leave a bit of room for interpretation, asserting that a report must be filed if there is “reason to believe” a child has been abused. Yet authorites asserted that USA Gymnastics was not doing its part to advocate for victims or legitimize their complaints in the legal system.

“There is no question that USAG is not interpreting the law of our state, but rather their own internal law and system,” Haymaker said.

You can read the full report on the Indy Star.