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USA Gymnastics needs 'culture change' to stop abuse

28 June 2017

USA Gymnastics tapped former federal prosecutor Deborah Daniels to spearhead a review after an explosive report by the Indianapolis Star claimed the organization mishandled a series of molestation cases, including allegations that former national team physician Dr. Larry Nassar targeted young athletes over the course of his tenure as the team's doctor between 1996 and 2015.

On Monday, Daniels submitted her report, which includes 70 recommendations. Effective immediately, the policy outlines the scope of the organization's commitment to promoting a safe environment, requirements and expectations placed on members, and incorporates the authority and jurisdiction of the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

"Given this clear conflict in the Athlete Representative's duties and loyalties, it is highly unlikely that any athlete under consideration for inclusion in the team will confide in the Athlete Representative, thus reducing the potential for the reporting of abuse through this avenue", the report said.

The organization announced new sexual misconduct policies it plans to implement to better protect the athletes going forward. "We will use the voices and perspectives represented in the report as a guide for the future".

The statement, which was signed by 21 members of its board of directors, apologizes to any gymnast who suffered "abuse or mistreatment".

"We are focusing exclusively on the future and how we can better protect athletes", Parilla said. The organization stated it went to authorities quickly in the summer of 2015 after hearing claims of abuse against Dr. Larry Nassar but later amended the timeline following a Wall Street Journal report, saying it conducted a five-week internal review before going to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Success in competition is important, but not at the expense of an athlete's health and safety. "We're too big, if we're injured, its because we're not in good enough shape". "It's going to take some times so we are going to have to continue watching it moving forward and see what they do". "I don't think that Larry obviously could have been able to treat people the way he wanted to if we had been taught that because then we would have known to say something". Some of the key recommendations are listed below.

- Require immediate reporting of suspected abuse.

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Adult members are prohibited from being alone with minor gymnasts at all times.

· Revamping and streamlining the organization's misconduct and grievance process to increase understanding and make it easier to report inappropriate behavior.

More tricky will be enforcing compliance among members and their clubs.

- Consider requiring certification for coaches before they're hired by member clubs.

· Providing a detailed hiring tool kit to member clubs.

- Educate parents and athletes on abuse prevention on an annual basis.

USA Gymnastics has approved a new Safe Sport Policy after accepting recommendations made in an independent review of the organisation's methods. All adults working with children at member clubs will have to become USA Gymnastics members and undergo criminal background checks and abuse education training.

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"The vast majority of adults in the gymnastics community have the best interests of young athletes at heart". "It is critical that the focus of USA Gymnastics be first and foremost on the safety of the athletes".

Paul Parilla, chairman of the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors, said the organisation will immediately move forward implementing policy changes recommended in Daniels' report. "And if it's treated as a privilege, it can be revoked if policies are not followed". The policies include the following. Daniels wants USA Gymnastics to remove the president from determining the disposition of allegations, having the board oversee the process instead.

"This was a forward-looking report and not a rear-view-mirror report", Daniels told reporters.

Daniels said the process USA Gymnastics had for investigating claims was "cumbersome" and "somewhat mysterious".

Nassar's downfall began just weeks after the USA women's Olympic gymnastics team dominated the podium in Rio de Janeiro, taking home fistfuls of medals, including a second straight team gold and four total golds for all-around champion Simone Biles. Its mission is to encourage participation and the pursuit of excellence in the sport.

These press releases appear as sent to Around the Rings and are not edited for spelling, grammar or punctuation.

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USA Gymnastics needs 'culture change' to stop abuse