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Child Sex Abuse In U.S. Gymnastics Affected Hundreds, IndyStar Reports

Over the course of two decades, at least 368 gymnasts have alleged they were sexually assaulted or exploited by adults working in the sport, according to a new investigative report by The Indianapolis Star.

The newspaper has spent months looking into a pattern of sexual abuse involving USA Gymnastics, which is the national governing body for the sport and is the largest U.S. gymnastics organization. It selects the U.S. Olympic teams for gymnastics, among other things.

This summer, three IndyStar journalists reported that USA Gymnastics had ignored complaints and warnings about predatory coaches, and failed to report allegations to authorities.

They now conclude that abusive coaches were "allowed to move from gym to gym" — quietly fired from one gym before being hired at another.

The three reporters, with the USA Today network, have also reviewed hundreds of police and court documents from the past 20 years.

They say it's unclear from the records how many accusers and alleged abusers were USA Gymnastics members, "because the organization does not disclose that information," but that their research reveals widespread abuse across American gymnastics:

"At least 368 gymnasts have alleged some form of sexual abuse at the hands of their coaches, gym owners and other adults working in gymnastics. That's a rate of one every 20 days. And it's likely an undercount. ...

"All told, 115 adults at every level of the sport, from respected Olympic mentors to novices working with recreational gymnasts, were accused. The alleged abuse happened in every part of the U.S. — from Maine to California, Washington to Florida, and across the Midwest. ...

"Other victims included casual athletes and elite-level performers such as Olympians. They were teenagers and preteens. The youngest was 6. Almost all of them were girls.

"They encountered the men accused of abusing them everywhere from a Rhode Island YMCA to the famous Karolyi Ranch in Texas, where USA Gymnastics sends its top female athletes to train."

The reporters accuse USA Gymnastics of working to keep the details of some cases secret.

You can read the full IndyStar report here.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.

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