USAG is still claiming there's not much more they can do other than ban him. I say: not so. How about changing the rules? Much more can be done to prevent future incidents as well as providing clear policies and procedures when abuse is suspected. How about making gym owners accountable for the behaviors of those coaches or other employees on their payroll? What if a club's gym membership was suspended for hiring an abuser or failing to act when reported abuse was happening to the girls training in the gym? What if the girls couldn't compete in USAG competitions if clubs failed to comply? USAG argues this punishes the girls - but doesn't training with a pedophile, risking the athletes' emotional and physical well-being, hurt them more? There are always other gyms to go to that will comply with the policies thus making it possible to compete (and train safely) if a club is banned from membership. Gyms should be required to report suspected abuse. It should not be left to discretion - clearly that isn't working. Gyms should sign up to do this upon becoming member clubs, in the name of athlete protection. This doesn't currently exist.
I'm not a lawyer. I don't know what's truly possible. But certainly, something akin to the above is feasible?
It's not asking for much really. Under various state laws, Pediatricians are required to report suspected abuse to officials lest they risk losing their licenses. If a school principal suspected abuse or was told of abuse by a teacher and did nothing - said "it's rumors" or "there's not enough proof" - there would be outrage (and probably some laws broken, depending on the state). There should by no means be a witch hunt, but there should be a proper investigation. These athletes should be provided the same protections they are provided in other areas of their lives - like in school, or at the doctor.
I know how insular that world can be. I came from it. It made sense to me then. I can tell you stories. Some of which were in my book; some of which were not. The boys coach in our gym was a legendary pedophile. He took advantage of those kids without strong parental presence. He was a world class coach (and a teacher). No one wanted to rock the boat. "It would ruin his life," was a common refrain by some parents. Like he ruined those kids' lives. I feel terribly that I didn't do something - though as a kid myself I followed the lead of the adults. If no one came forward maybe it wasn't that bad? He was eventually fired. But went on to open his own gym nearby and then, later, 'retired' abruptly under hazy circumstances and passed ownership of the gym on to one of his coaches. No one ever came forward to officially accuse him. He probably continued teaching in the school system. But who knows. In another instance, a young girl got up the gumption to tell her parents what was happening in the gym at the hands of one of her coaches. "Surely you've made a mistake," and they waved it off. It was a different time, people often say. Was it that different though?
Mr. Boger went on trial in the 1980's. His legal bills were footed by parents in the gym. He was staunchly defended. No one wanted to believe that their beloved coach - the guy who was gonna bring their daughters medals and Olympic team berths - was an abuser.
|Boger with a gymnast in the '80s|
We have an unhealthy belief in winners. This is not unique to sport. Winning = good = beyond reproach. He wins (or trains those who do) therefore he can't be that monster. Maybe he bends the rules a bit. But winners get to. Just like Wall Streeters. They "win" money. They do harm. They go unpunished. Sound familiar?
Maybe it's time to develop a little less faith in winning. Not that we should instinctively distrust those who succeed. But they must not be beyond criticism - or viewed as beyond the law - simply BECAUSE they win.
In many cases, I'd argue, it's their winning that makes them believe they have the power to exist outside the rules. Their egotism may in fact prompt recklessness, illegal acts. In the same way it makes politicians do things like father babies with their "girlfriends" while their wives are dying, or tweet penis pictures, or troll for sex in airport bathrooms. Power corrupts, is the phrase. And while, to the outside world, it may not seem like gymnastics coaches are powerful, I can tell you, from inside, they hold all the cards.