Lawsuits against USA Gymnastics, Larry Nassar, etc. - news & updates

Jayar

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9,240
These women are so brave to share their stories, to stand up to the organization, and still continue to find ways to fight. I hope that I would have similar resolve would I have been in their shoes, but I think that they are miraculous. I do hope that they all get the settlements that they deserve so that they can get the help that they need to heal in the way that makes the most sense for each individual.
 

clairecloutier

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9,444

I just read this article. Wow, with all these different allegations, it seems fairly clear that there are systemic issues in U.S. women's gymnastics, in terms of what is considered appropriate and allowable behavior by coaches. :( :eek:

I wonder how the gymnastics federation can and will address this issue.
 

danafan

Canadian ladies über
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6,843
I just read this article. Wow, with all these different allegations, it seems fairly clear that there are systemic issues in U.S. women's gymnastics, in terms of what is considered appropriate and allowable behavior by coaches. :( :eek:

I wonder how the gymnastics federation can and will address this issue.
Unfortunately I don't think this problem is unique to gymnastics in the United States.

The level of intensity required to be successful at the elite level in a sport like gymnastics is, in and of itself, controversial. How do you, as a coach, get your athlete to train at the required intensity and to push themselves beyond their limits? What is that line between strict coaching and verbal abuse, and is it the same for every participant? You could have two athletes who trained in the exact same environment where at the end of the day one considered it abuse and the other is thankful that their coaches pushed them and helped them achieve their goals.

I think the whole sport needs a culture change. Part of the issue facing women's gymnastics is that many athletes are reaching their peak before they are legally adults. I mean yes more athletes are competing well into adulthood now, but the intense training starts when they are still children. I don't know what the answer is.
 

Rob

Beach Bum
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14,612
Ballet was/is much the same with the screaming and body shaming. But there is a difference in shouting at the athlete/dancer that "you have to do it this way or you are going to break your neck/leg" and shouting "you are so fat and stupid that you can't move your ass" or "take off your cast and move your ass." The former is tough love training, which might not be popular anymore, but it is a fact of life in competitive environments; the latter is demeaning and bullying and dangerous. In my dance school, if your body type was so wrong that you couldn't perform the steps, your money was not accepted and you were given other suggestions (like "have you tried piano?".) With injuries, I think some coaches/teachers feel students are faking the injury, but when you have a cast on your leg, huh?

I thought Maggie Haney was one of the good ones. Where in the world would you send your kid now - Simone Biles' gym or Sarah Jantzi?
 

Choupette

Well-Known Member
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1,938
I just read this article. Wow, with all these different allegations, it seems fairly clear that there are systemic issues in U.S. women's gymnastics, in terms of what is considered appropriate and allowable behavior by coaches. :( :eek:

I wonder how the gymnastics federation can and will address this issue.
The biggest challenge, no doubt, is that the whole culture of women's gymnastics has to change (I just see that danafan used the same words). What was going on at the training camps was basically just the continuation of the sort of widespread abuse that went on at the lower levels. It wasn't only due to the Karolyis either, but they "normalized" it, for sure. Now, good luck changing the culture from the top level through to the lowest level. They'll have at least to display an impeccable behavior at the elite level to start with, starting with camps and national team training, and then they'll have somehow to convince club coaches that the old way to do it is no longer acceptable and ban coaches if they have to.

It's not surprising to me that they have struggled so much to fill the positions within the organization. It may be due to incompetence through the selection process, but I wonder if it's not as much a sign of ignorance because what some people did might only be known only in close circles, until the day the light is shed over them by former gymnasts. Let's say that USA Gymnastics hired an outsider to initiate a change of culture, me for the sake of the example, and I wanted to hire a national team coordinator a year ago, how could I have guessed that Maggie Haney would not have been an appropriate choice?

Ballet was/is much the same with the screaming and body shaming. But there is a difference in shouting at the athlete/dancer that "you have to do it this way or you are going to break your neck/leg" and shouting "you are so fat and stupid that you can't move your ass" or "take off your cast and move your ass." The former is tough love training, which might not be popular anymore, but it is a fact of life in competitive environments; the latter is demeaning and bullying and dangerous. In my dance school, if your body type was so wrong that you couldn't perform the steps, your money was not accepted and you were given other suggestions (like "have you tried piano?".) With injuries, I think some coaches/teachers feel students are faking the injury, but when you have a cast on your leg, huh?
I agree with you, even though I have not experienced this first hand. To me there is absolutely no reason to call a gymnast names, shame them, or yell at them at all, except perhaps, as you mentioned, for safety reasons. If it's not something you'd say in a "normal" working environment, it has no place in the gym, either.

As for weight, I think coaches should mainly emphasize that the more serious you are as an athlete, the more everything you eat has to have a purpose regarding what your body needs. But don't weight the athletes yourself. Perhaps try to have someone independent from you monitor the gymnast's health, someone the gymnasts feel safe and comfortable with because they know they can be open and they won't be shamed over their weight since it won't all be reported to the coach?

I thought Maggie Haney was one of the good ones. Where in the world would you send your kid now - Simone Biles' gym or Sarah Jantzi?
If I had a child interested in gymnastics, I know I wouldn't have a particular interest in seeing them reach the elite level, and if that was their desire, I would monitor their health and the coaching relationship very closely, not for the sake of interfering with the coaching, but to make sure the environment is healthy. And if I was prevented to do so by the coach or club, then just too bad, bye bye coach. It's not worth it.

If I had been the child (and I was in fact, except that I was already too scared even at the bottom level to pursue the sport, lol), knowing myself, I would definitely have quit by myself at the first sign of disrespect because that's just my personality, and my parents would not have tolerated a succession of severe injuries, either.

But then I also don't live in a country where college fees are so outrageous that if you have to pay your way to college, you are starting adulthood with a crazy debt. That seems to convince many American gymnasts to stick with the sport. The national team is a bonus: a lot of gymnasts figure a scholarship is much more attainable anyway and very valuable, so they put up with it.

On a similar note, I read Rachel Haines's book this summer. She was abused by Nassar and was training with John Geddert. I was mainly curious about her experience with Geddert. Surprisingly, she said he always respected her. Ideally I would have to go back to some chapters to get her exact wording, but I don't have time for that now. Basically, what she said was that he seemed to be convinced he didn't have to push her because he could see she had the inner drive to push herself, but that it wasn't the case with other gymnasts, hence why the different behavior. She wasn't specific as to what she saw herself, so I can't say that she condones what has been reported about him, but she was kind of justifying that he treated other gymnasts differently than her.

On one hand, I'm sure she meant for the book to tell her story and only hers so I don't want to extrapolate too much. On the other hand, from what we've heard about Geddert, if he really behaved like it was reported (or even half as bad as what was reported), there is frankly no justification for treating people like that, ever. I don't care if he thought they weren't training "hard enough". And the training she described anyway, like the running for example, really pushed the girls at extreme limits, which doesn't seem right either.

Another thing that struck me is related to the horrific back injury she suffered a few years from reaching college age. Normally, she shouldn't have kept doing gymnastics, but Nassar gave her the green light (she believes he did so he still had access to her). He was apparently the only doctor willing to let her do gymnastics. Even when she had to go through a physical exam when entering college, the doctors didn't think she should be doing gymnastics, but she told them to call Nassar, who said "yes I know about this and that, but it won't get worse", and that convinced them to give her the green light because he was Nassar and he knew gymnastics better than anyone.

In the book, she talks about how some colleges had written her off and how she proved them wrong by competing anyway at the collegiate level (although she had to drop bars, then floor and couldn't compete in her 4th year). She went through immense pain, definitely took huge risks with her health and eventually needed a surgery after which the recovery phase was terrible. Now she's pain free; she wouldn't be able to compete in gymnastics but she can do sports. She talks about how what she learned through gymnastics helps her as an adult and transfers even into her job performance, not to mention being debt-free after college. I believe her when she says it brought her a lot and was worth it to her. Seriously, since it apparently all ended well and it was worth it to her, I am sincerely happy for her.

However, she never convinced me that she proved anyone wrong by competing in college gymnastics despite her back injury. This girl really shouldn't have been doing gymnastics, taking those risks and going through such horrible pain for so many years. No one will ever convince me that this was a good idea. She had no business in a gym. And to me, that she can't quite see it that way, possibly along with her "explanation" of why Geddert didn't behave with everyone the same way, also tells me something about the culture of gymnastics in America. I suspect she may not have enough distance from the sport and its culture (yet?).
 

judiz

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5,264
In a perfect world, all coaches would be like Sasha Beloff ( sorry, found my Make it or Break it dvd today)
 

judiz

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Why would any parent send their child to a gymnastics practice while wearing a boot?
Same reason parents sent their kids while feverish, it was expected they be at every practice or risk being penalized.
 

ilovepaydays

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9,457
In a perfect world, all coaches would be like Sasha Beloff ( sorry, found my Make it or Break it dvd today)
I’ve binge watched the entire series on YouTubeTV recently and I believe Sasha did numerous things that, although they were innocent for those involved, could be considered SafeSport violations today. He had gymnastics lessons with several gymnasts alone, for example. And then there was what happened with Payson......
 

Willin

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Why would any parent send their child to a gymnastics practice while wearing a boot?
Many reasons good and bad: a fear (real or not) that the coach will be pissed/pay less attention to the athlete if they miss, that there's stuff they can train (upper body strength or something), the parent is one of that crazy breed of sports parents that likes to ignore injuries as much as possible so their kid doesn't miss training time (more common than you'd think), the athlete herself doesn't want to miss training time and the parent caves, the athlete is learning stuff on the sidelines (more common for team sports where you go over strategy or choreography changes), the training center has PT on site to work with athletes on rehabbing injuries, they already paid for the time and can't be refunded so why not, etc etc
 

Erin

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Why would any parent send their child to a gymnastics practice while wearing a boot?
I kept going to practice while I was in a boot for a broken foot. You can still do conditioning exercises, some things on bars, flexibility. It was a long time ago so I don’t remember all the details but I had a lot of injuries in gymnastics and the only one where I ever stopped going to the gym completely was when I had a stress fracture in my back because it seemed like even the conditioning exercises would put too much strain on my back. But with every other injury, you went to the gym and you worked around it.

Unfortunately the stories about coaches not believing injuries are all too familiar to me. The broken foot wasn’t an issue - the coaches saw that one happen at the gym and I also had good coaches then. But later coaches were less believing of various injuries...one time I recall running down the vault runway and collapsing because my knees gave way and my coach just rolled her eyes at me when I asked if I could move on to bars because I clearly couldn’t vault anymore. Given how much I hated bars, I felt like asking to go to bars should give away that I wasn’t faking it but she didn’t care. She basically ignored me for that practice and several more afterward. I wouldn’t call any of this behaviour abusive exactly but it wasn’t good either.
 

Wyliefan

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Re: Geddert, I'm reading Rachael Denhollander's book now (got an early copy), and she has quite a bit to say about his methods! She knew girls who trained with him. It's a really good book so far. She has a knack for explaining things very clearly and thoroughly for the uninformed -- both gymnastics and (sadly) the nature of the abuse by Nassar.
 

Choupette

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But later coaches were less believing of various injuries...one time I recall running down the vault runway and collapsing because my knees gave way and my coach just rolled her eyes at me when I asked if I could move on to bars because I clearly couldn’t vault anymore. Given how much I hated bars, I felt like asking to go to bars should give away that I wasn’t faking it but she didn’t care. She basically ignored me for that practice and several more afterward. I wouldn’t call any of this behaviour abusive exactly but it wasn’t good either.
What she was doing was manipulation or retaliation. Ignoring someone counts as abuse to me in that context. Besides, if your parents were paying her to coach you and she wouldn't, wouldn't that be financial abuse, as well?
 

Aceon6

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I hope the current coaches are the last generation of the “old school” methods. If you’re older than 50, you probably remember when pursuing any sport meant being able to tolerate a culture of favoritism, bullying, and hazing. The rationale was that “I had to do it and came out ok, so you have to do it, too.”

Hazing, in particular, seemed to have gotten worse as each succeeding generation passed through the system. In the late 50s, my brother had to wash the team captain’s jock and do other mildly humiliating things to be accepted on the team. In the 80s, the captains were forcing new kids to do dangerous things like drink a pint of vodka or run the stairs nude on a very cold day. Now, two generations later, his same team was cited for allowing upperclassmen to beat freshmen so severely that some missed practice. No one said anything, not the kids or parents, and it was only stopped because the ER staff notified children’s services that two School X baseball players were treated for assault.
 

Choupette

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I hope the current coaches are the last generation of the “old school” methods. If you’re older than 50, you probably remember when pursuing any sport meant being able to tolerate a culture of favoritism, bullying, and hazing. The rationale was that “I had to do it and came out ok, so you have to do it, too.”

Hazing, in particular, seemed to have gotten worse as each succeeding generation passed through the system. In the late 50s, my brother had to wash the team captain’s jock and do other mildly humiliating things to be accepted on the team. In the 80s, the captains were forcing new kids to do dangerous things like drink a pint of vodka or run the stairs nude on a very cold day. Now, two generations later, his same team was cited for allowing upperclassmen to beat freshmen so severely that some missed practice. No one said anything, not the kids or parents, and it was only stopped because the ER staff notified children’s services that two School X baseball players were treated for assault.
I started having a bit of hope on that front. Of course, some initiations had to make the news for that to happen, but I believe universities around here have started taking a closer look at what's going on. Of course I can't know for sure how durable and widespread any changes have been because it's not like a summary exists anywhere, but it's not exactly good publicity for a university when things like that are reported in sports teams or departments.

It seems to have really changed in the NHL too, if I go by some interviews with general managers and players a few years ago. Now rookies are paying once a nice dinner for the whole team, but of course the salaries are such that it's not getting them in trouble. And at least in this case reciprocity means you get nice dinners in the years to come instead of getting to haze your teammates.
 

Rob

Beach Bum
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14,612
Why would any parent send their child to a gymnastics practice while wearing a boot?
When we were injured, we were required to sit on the bench and watch. “Benched”. You actually learn a lot on the bench.
 

MacMadame

Cat Lady-in-Training
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29,390
There's also a social aspect to many of these sports so going to practice means you get to hang out with your friends.
 

Artistic Skaters

Drawing Figures
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Rachel Denhollander was interviewed today on CBS This Morning.
USA Gymnastics said their process for addressing reports of sexual misconduct is now "stronger and better defined," with changes like mandatory reporting and policies that set boundaries between staff and athletes.

But Denhollander said that isn't enough. "Their last two appointees were already under investigation in SafeSport for having abusive environments in their gym, and they didn't manage to catch that before they appointed them, or didn't think it was a problem before they put them in charge of athletes' safety," she said.

"So, if you have to be told to do a background check on your appointees three years into the worst sexual assault scandal in sports history, I don't think you've learned very much."
 

Artistic Skaters

Drawing Figures
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7,052
The continued failings have been the subject of internal and Congressional investigations and, now, according to the Journal, the Justice Department.

Citing a source "familiar with aspects of the investigation," the Journal said one focus of the investigation appears to be on "failures in the Olympic system, writ large, to respond to signs of widespread child abuse.”

"The U.S. Olympic Committee and its affiliated national governing bodies enabled Larry Nassar by turning a blind eye to criminal conduct and then trying to sweep it under the rug. Everyone who allowed abuse to continue must be held responsible for any and all violations of the law," Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said in a statement.
 

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