USA Gymnastics accused of failing to report sex abuse accusations

Marvin Sharp was charged in federal court in 2015 and killed himself in jail. (Mario County Prosectuor's Office)

USA Gymnastics officials failed to report allegations or ignored multiple warnings that some athletes were being sexually abused by their coaches, according to testimony stemming from a 2013 lawsuit and an extensive investigation by The Indianapolis Star.

Records reviewed by the newspaper showed USA Gymnastics had received complaints against more than 50 coaches. In at least four cases which The Star was able to independently verify, USA Gymnastics did not initiate reports to authorities.

After the warnings, those coaches allegedly abused at least 14 more people. Each of those coaches was eventually arrested.

USA Gymnastics develops the country’s Olympic squad. The Star published its report one day before the opening ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, scheduled for Friday night.

One longtime coach who trained in gyms in Florida and Georgia, Bill McCabe, pleaded guilty in 2006 to charges including sexual exploitation of children and was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison. A 2013 lawsuit filed by one of McCabe’s victims revealed that USA Gymnastics often dismissed sex abuse claims unless they originated from the alleged victim or a parent of an alleged victim, two officials testified under oath.

Another coach, Marvin Sharp, was charged in federal court in 2015 and killed himself in jail. Mark Schiefelbein is serving a 36-year sentence on seven counts of aggravated sexual battery and one count of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor. James Bell pleaded guilty to three counts of child molestation and is serving an eight-year sentence.

In each of those cases, The Star found, USA Gymnastics failed to send reports of those accusations to investigators.

“USAG failed at this,” said Lisa Ganser, the mother of the girl who filed the as yet-undecided 2013 lawsuit. “USA Gymnastics had enough information, I think, to have done something about this. It didn’t have to happen to my daughter, and it didn’t have to happen to other little girls.”

USA Gymnastics told The Star it follows reporting laws and “has a long and proactive history of developing policy to protect its athletes,” according to a statement from the group’s president, Steve Penny. The group's executive office is in Indianapolis.

“It did not have to happen,” Ganser told The Star. “Bill McCabe could have been stopped close to 10 years before he got these girls. He should’ve been stopped before he ever got to our town.”

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