USA Gymnastics has asked a former federal prosecutor to review how it handles sexual misconduct complaints after more than two dozen women accused the federation’s longtime physician of assault.
Deborah J. Daniels, who was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana from January 1988 to April 1993 and an Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice from 2001 to 2005, is expected to consult with law enforcement and child welfare experts, as well as members of the gymnastics community, in her investigation of USA Gymnastics’ policies and procedures. Before becoming a federal prosecutor, Daniels managed the Marion County (Ind.) prosecutor’s sex offense and child abuse unit, and also co-founded Coburn Place, a shelter for domestic violence victims in Indianapolis.
Daniels will have full independence, and will make recommendations afterward to USA Gymnastics’ board of directors. No timetable was given for the investigation.
“The well-being of our athletes is paramount,” USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said in a statement. “We believe Deborah’s review … will generate recommendations on what needs refinement to further promote athlete safety.”
USA Gymnastics has come under increasing fire in recent months after questions were raised about how the federation responded to assault complaints. In August, the Indianapolis Star reported on allegations of sexual abuse by several USA Gymnastics coaches. The federation is currently facing lawsuits by at least three former gymnasts, including a 2000 Olympian, who accused USA Gymnastics of ignoring their complaints or fostering an environment in which the alleged assaults were allowed to happen.
Dr. Larry Nassar, the physician for the women’s team for more than 20 years, also has been accused of sexually assaulting gymnasts in his care. Numerous gymnasts have told similar stories of Nassar fondling their breasts and genitals, and some have said he penetrated them with his finger under the guise of treatment.
Many of the women were underage at the time of the alleged assaults.
USA Gymnastics said it fired Nassar in the summer of 2015 and alerted federal authorities after learning of the alleged abuse. But it did not make his dismissal public, saying it was asked not to by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Nassar has not been charged with any crimes and has denied any wrongdoing. The FBI has not commented.
Nassar was fired by Michigan State after gymnasts began coming forward with their complaints against him.
By Nancy Armour
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.