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USA Gymnastics Board Approves Safe Sport Policy

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Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., shakes hands with Dominique Moceanu,1996 Olympic gymnastics gold medalist, before the start of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on "Protecting Young Athletes From Sexual Abuse" on Tuesday. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

USA Gymnastics has approved a new Safe Sport Policy after accepting recommendations made in an independent review of the organization’s methods.

The review was commissioned by USA Gymnastics and conducted by Deborah Daniels, a former federal prosecutor who spent a significant portion of her career prosecuting child sexual offenders.

It came after former members of the United States national team made allegations last year of sexual abuse against Lawrence Nassar, an ex-team doctor.

Jessica Howard, the US national rhythmic gymnastics champion from 1999 to 2001, and Jeanette Antolin, a Pan American Games silver medalist, spoke about the alleged abuse on the CBS 60 Minutes program in February.

Atlanta 1996 Olympic gold medalist Dominique Moceanu and Sydney 2000 bronze medalist Jamie Dantzscher joined Howard in testifying to a Senate Committee in Washington D.C, with the aim of protecting young athletes from abuse in March.

Dantzscher also filed a lawsuit against Nassar in California last September as “Jane Doe”.

Nassar remains in jail awaiting trial on state charges of child sexual abuse, as well as Federal child pornography charges.

Replacing the previous Participant Welfare Policy, the new document includes key updates to USA Gymnastics policies and procedures.

“Daniels’ report is very thorough and thoughtful, and we appreciate everyone who participated in this effort,” said Paul Parilla, chairman of the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors.

“Her review and recommendations are part of the blueprint for continually strengthening our policies and procedures to better protect our athletes.

“Many of her recommendations are already reflected in the new safe sport policy, which we approved at the meeting and is effective immediately.

“We are committed to making meaningful changes, and we will use the voices and perspectives represented in the report as a guide for the future.”

Key recommendations include clearly articulating the organization’s culture as one that puts athlete safety first, requiring all members to report suspected sexual misconduct immediately to the appropriate legal authorities and the US Center for SafeSport and developing a legally implementable method to track adults who have been dismissed from clubs for violation of safe sport policies.

Implementing a strategic, comprehensive abuse prevention training plan for members, parents and athletes and annually providing them with information on prevention policies and procedures have also been proposed.

“The vast majority of adults in the gymnastics community have the best interests of young athletes at heart,” added Daniels.

“However, the high-pressure atmosphere and relative youth of athletes in elite gymnastics, in particular, can lead not only to enabling abusers, but also to suppressing reporting.

“It is critical that the focus of USA Gymnastics be first and foremost on the safety of the athletes.

“It is reassuring to see USA Gymnastics embracing the need for improvements, including the adoption of a new and pervasive culture of accountability cascading through the organisation and its members.”

USA Gymnastics is also in the final stages of hiring a director of safe sport who will “play an integral role in elevating the importance of safe sport throughout the entire organization”.

The new Safe Sport Policy can be found here while Daniels’ report can be read in full here.

By Max Winters

Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz

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