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A message from Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics
posted on 08/05/2016

At the core of every sport is people – the athletes and the thousands of individuals who are dedicated to helping young people learn a sport they love, the life lessons that come from gymnastics and possibly achieving the dream of a lifetime by competing on the world’s greatest sporting stage, the Olympics. USA Gymnastics and youth sports in general are a microcosm of society, troubled by the same societal issues that plague schools and religious and youth organizations. Preventing sexual misconduct is one of the biggest and the most concerning.

When I became CEO of USA Gymnastics in 2005, I knew there would be rewards and challenges. The rewards have been profound: Learning about what makes the sport tick at the grassroots levels; the remarkable performances of the elite athletes at the Olympic Games and World Championships; witnessing firsthand the club owners and coaches who dedicate their lives to helping the youth of America learn how to use their God-given talents.

Sexual misconduct matters are the most challenging — and distressing — issues to cross my desk. I recognize on a personal level the trials that all kids go through as they grow up in today’s society. It is heartbreaking and unacceptable for a young person to have the intolerable burden that results from being a victim of sexual misconduct. We share the outrage that sexual assault victims and their families feel. This is why USA Gymnastics has developed and implemented policies and procedures; created and disseminated educational materials for parents and athletes; and mobilized resources to assist local gym clubs and the gymnastics community in promoting a safe environment for the past few decades.

Regrettably, preventing sexual abuse is not as easy as it should be. There have been times when the organization has been hamstrung by a hearing process mandated by its compliance with the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act. Other times, the investigations themselves have taken frustrating twists and turns, including dealing with situations that had already been addressed in a court of law — where USA Gymnastics has no oversight — occurred more than 30 years ago or are the subject of ongoing investigations by law enforcement officials.

Through it all, we have dedicated ourselves to educating the gymnastics community and providing a streamlined process for banning those found to have engaged in sexual misconduct, as well as investigating those who did not meet the legal standards for judicial adjudication. We have also refined our investigating process, made member club requirements compliant with Safe Sport standards, and worked hand-in-hand with law enforcement, as well as employing investigators when cases have arisen after the statute of limitations had legally expired. For USA Gymnastics, there is no statute of limitations regarding allegations of sexual misconduct.

USA Gymnastics has been recognized as a leader within the U.S. Olympic movement, constantly encouraging best practices to be shared and participating every step of the way to create the National Center for SafeSport which will come on-line in 2017.

Contrary to the Indianapolis Star’s report, USA Gymnastics has not tried to cover-up these matters. Quite the opposite: We have cooperated with law enforcement at every turn and our investigations have never been filtered by coaching credentials. Our ability to share information publicly has been hindered by pending litigation on cases, one of which was included in the Star’s story, and while the media is not limited from identifying victims in these cases, USA Gymnastics has always strived to protect their identity.

The people who have been deeply affected by sexual abuse and have come forward -- including those who found the strength after decades -- are a reminder to me every day of the serious nature of abuse, and USA Gymnastics remains committed to doing what is necessary to address this challenging issue.

Regards,
Steve