Cultural Change Urged at USA Gymnastics


In a critical review of USA Gymnastics by Deborah Daniels, a former federal prosecutor, Ms. Daniels reports that the National Governing Body needs a “complete cultural change” after not doing enough to educate staff, members and athletes about protecting children from sexual abuse and failing to ensure that safeguards were followed.

USA Gymnastics engaged Ms. Daniels last fall to review its practices and policies following criticism of its handling of sex abuse complaints, including a case involving the longtime team physician that has resulted in federal charges against him.

In her 100-page report, which was released to the public after it was presented to the USA Gymnastics Board, Ms. Daniels noted that “the safety and well-being of the athletes, not world and Olympic medals, must be the focus.” The Federation’s Board, chaired by Paul Parilla, was unanimous in accepting the 70 recommendations contained in the report.

Ms. Daniels said that, “If USA Gymnastics does what they said they will, adopt the recommendations and implement them effectively, it’s poised to be in the forefront of the U.S. Olympic movement in the protection of athletes from abuse. My charge was to look at policies in place and identify ways in which they could be improved.”

While Daniels was engaged “to conduct an independent review of USA Gymnastics’ bylaws, policies, procedures, and practices related to handling sexual misconduct matters,” a number of her recommendations could form the foundation for an enterprise-wide compliance program though that was not the intent of the commissioned review. First of all, Daniels made it clear in her report that “USA Gymnastics needs to undergo a complete cultural change, permeating the entire organization and communicated to the field in all its actions.” She went on to recommend that “USA Gymnastics needs to take action to ensure that this change in culture also is fully embraced by the clubs that host member coaches, instructors, and athletes.”

Specifically, of the 70 recommendations contained in the report, several appear to have been drawn from the pages of a professional compliance guidebook:

* Provide training for the Board of Directors,

* Conduct an annual enterprise risk review,

* Appoint a designated Director and provide for direct reporting to the Board,

* Strengthen the Code of Conduct,

* Develop a disciplinary process for violations of the Code,

* Develop and require training for all members, parents, and athletes,

* Provide for Board oversight of the process,

* Require reporting of abuse and policy violations,

* Expand reporting methods to encourage and facilitate reporting, and

* Provide training on reporting requirements.

Ms. Daniels was commissioned to address just one area of risk, child sexual abuse. However, if USA Gymnastics follows through on its commitment to effectively implement the recommendations in the report, it will have taken the first steps, even if done inadvertently, towards the establishment of an enterprise-wide compliance program which could truly be a model for all the other USOC National Governing Bodies.


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