An Open Letter to the USA Gymnastics Community
posted on 03/10/2017

To the USA Gymnastics family – all current and former athletes, coaches, officials, club owners, families and thousands of others who support them and the millions who cheer for them:

Thank you for your fierce commitment to and passion for gymnastics. Gymnastics is not just a sport, it is a community, a family, and for many, a way of life. There are tens of thousands of good people who serve our youth every day. Our elite athletes are amazing role models for kids and are among the best in sport at giving back whenever they have the chance. It is a close-knit group that comes together to support one another.

For many years, USA Gymnastics has provided safety and education programs to promote a safe environment for our athletes, and this work will continue. Together, we must all do everything possible to prevent the opportunity for abuse and misconduct from happening in gymnastics.

In recent months, the scrutiny about sexual abuse in the sport of gymnastics, and the attention on USA Gymnastics’ efforts to protect our athletes, has shaken us all. It is unconscionable that any adult would use gymnastics to inappropriately gain access to children. Anyone who is guilty of these forms of abuse has betrayed the athletes, the sport, the clubs, the organization, and all of the professionals and volunteers who have worked with honor.

We recently initiated the most comprehensive, thorough and independent evaluation of our athlete safety program to date. This is a community-wide effort designed to examine the culture and generate recommendations that can help USA Gymnastics strengthen its efforts in this area. A former prosecutor who spent her career prosecuting abusers and offenders is examining our requirements, mandates and structure to identify ways to strengthen our program and better protect youth.

Last week, the U.S. Center for SafeSport opened and will provide leadership for athlete safety throughout the entire U.S. Olympic Movement. USA Gymnastics has supported establishing the U.S. Center for SafeSport to provide oversight and expertise on this issue to all National Governing Bodies. The Center serves as an independent third party to refer and handle all sexual abuse claims moving forward. In addition to reporting to law enforcement as required by law and USA Gymnastics policy, staff and members will be charged with immediately forwarding allegations of sexual misconduct to the Center.

Additionally, 16 Senators have announced plans for legislation that strengthens the accountability of youth-serving sports organizations for reporting suspected abuse to law enforcement.

These significant developments are catalysts for creating a united effort to protect athletes from abuse. We believe it is very important that these efforts, both legislative and administrative, work in tandem to build a more effective system for assuring athlete safety.

This coming week, the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors is expected to approve bylaw amendments to comply with the new oversight of the U.S. Center for SafeSport and establish more specific guidelines for addressing misconduct in the sport. In addition, the entire leadership of USA Gymnastics shares the United States Olympic Committee’s commitment to promoting a safe environment for all athletes. We take the USOC’s views seriously, and the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors will address the USOC’s concerns and work to determine next steps.

USA Gymnastics will remain vigilant in confronting this serious issue. A safe environment is fundamental to enjoying and succeeding in the sport of gymnastics, and the recent attention on athlete safety emphasizes the need for sustained involvement from everyone. We all love this sport, and celebrate the athlete performances and accomplishments at every level, from those just beginning their journey to the best in the world.

Steve Penny - President
Paul Parilla - Chairman
Jay Binder - Vice chairman/secretary
Bitsy Kelley - Treasurer