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Sexual Abuse in Olympic Sports


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#1
MammaZord

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A few weeks ago, 60 Minutes ran a report about the ###### abuse of US gymnasts at the hands of Dr Larry Nassar. In it, US gymnastics star Aly Raisman chronicles the years of abuse, and the aftermath of Nassar’s arrest. This was a very powerful piece, and I recommend anyone who has young kids in sports to watch this video.

 

Since the first women came out against Nassar, many more have followed, including Raisman and her teammate Mckayla Maroney. Just last week, the Chicago Tribune had a shocking article about how ###### abuse, especially against children, is rampant in Olympic sports.

 

The basic outline of the article is that since 1982, there are 290 coaches and officials associated with US Olympic teams who have been publicly accused of ###### misconduct. If I had to guess, I would say the ACTUAL number is quite higher as many who are abused keep it a secret for myriad reasons. The article goes on to describe how individual governing bodies for each sport are very lacking in systems to keep athletes safe. Reading this article was so sad, and it became clear that the goal for many of these governing bodies was to produce medal-winning athletes and to ignore any problems that might stand in the way of that—including protecting predators like Dr. Nassar. (The article describes several situations across several sports that followed the same pattern of abuse and cover-up).

 

I was curious to see if this abuse touched softball in any way. The article states that the abuse allegations stretched across 15 sports, but did not list out the sports. To circle back, the first woman to come forward against Dr Nassar was Michigan State University star softball player Tiffany Thomas (now Lopez), who accused Nassar of abusing her way back in 1998. Her story is absolutely heartbreaking and downright disgusting. One of the worst aspects was that she tried to report what he did to her, but she was intimidated into remaining quiet. When all the allegations against Nassar came out these past few years, it seems MSU lied about not knowing about his actions until 2014. This article made me so furious, and really hits home that the “powers that be” care WAY more about money and reputation than they do about the safety of individuals.

 

While I could not find much about any abuse at the Olympic level softball, we are all aware that there have been some ###### assault allegations in NCAA softball. Just this year, we saw Auburn go through a scandal that involved its assistant coach having inappropriate relationships and physical contact with players. The worst part of that story was how the Auburn Athletic Director tried to intimidate players and cover up the whole incident. What an absolute disgrace. Thank God Auburn has since cleaned house, but the fact that something like that could happen at such a respected institution is just disheartening.

 

I did some more searching, and I found an absolutely disgusting incident with the head coach at Nyack College, Kurt Ludwigsen. Some of the lowlights of this man’s tenure include “routinely licking his players’ ears, kissing their lips and faces, slapping their buttocks, grabbing their breasts, directing them to sit on his lap, lying on top of them, commenting about their physical attributes.”  He also invited a pornographic star, Allie Haze, in to help guide the “life choices” of these athletes. The methods used included a booze-filled cocktail party where players were forced to dance with male strangers, and Haze offering to help the girls get into the adult entertainment industry. This is just mindboggling. According to the lawsuit filed by the players, they were threatened by Nyack College when they reported their coach’s wrongdoing. This is absolutely disheartening. And people are surprised that victims are reluctant to come forward?!

 

Does high-level athletics, especially involving young athletes (such as swimming and gymnastics), lend itself to predatory behavior? My answer is "yes." Folks with predatory inclinations gravitate towards jobs/situations where they will have unquestioned power over—as well as unsupervised access to—children; jobs like priest, teacher, coach, and team trainer/doctor fall into this category. 

 

Also, in these highly, highly competitive sports—especially individual sports—athletes and parents are going to be very reluctant to “rock the boat” as they know there are 100 other athletes in line to take their place. The Tribune article even stated that in US Gymnastics, parents were discouraged from even being present at training camps for fear the coaches would have to relinquish any control over the athletes. For these young athletes, they assume that they can trust the adults around them, and they SHOULD be able to. Unfortunately, monsters like Nassar are able to take advantage of this vulnerability. Aly Raisman says as much in the 60 Minutes piece.

 

The actions at Auburn and Nyack show it’s not just Olympic-level athletes who are at risk—predators can be lurking anywhere, and even the powers that are supposed to protect athletes sometimes do the opposite.

 

It is such a shame organizations like the USOC and NCAA value medals and money at the expense of their athletes, who are sometimes young children! Organizations need to do a MUCH better job at vetting coaches/officials/doctors. The Nyack coach had two ###### abuse allegations on his record when he was hired!! The reporting systems need to be in place to protect the ATHLETE, not the INSTITUTION! The hardest reality is that parents need to have open talks with their children about ###### abuse. Aly Raisman spoke about this, and it’s important for kids to know that no adult, no matter who they are, should touch you in any way that makes you feel uncomfortable.

 

As my kids are getting to the age where they will participate in organized sports, I am saddened to think about how messed up that world can be!!! 



#2
KCSoftball

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Former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar has pleaded guilty to sexually abusing young women.

http://on.si.com/2hN3wNG



#3
FaspitchPapa

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This is all very hard to read, but I worry that made up abuse allegations can be used as a weapon against anyone with an axe to grind against a coach.  Many players in organized sports believe the coach has wronged them in some way-- and now they have a nuclear weapon to hurt the coach.  With all the allegations being thrown around in Hollywood, politics, and the sports world recently it has created a "guilty before proven innocent" mindset.  And just the allegation, even if completely unfounded, can ruin the reputation and career of the accused. 

 

There have been documented cases of women falsely accusing men of rape.  I found one such allegation at https://www.theguard...ims-jemma-beale.  Ladies willing to falsely accuse are lurking out there, so we must be careful not to jump to conclusions too quickly in these cases.

 

I also hear people discuss this topic and say things like "why would so many women accuse [Person X] of these crimes, for there to be so many willing to speak out there must be truth to it."  I hear these things and I can't help but think that this is exactly how the Salem witch trial hysteria went.  One person accused someone of witchcraft, and as soon as the accusation is made other people start to re-examine prior incidents with the accused person and tailor their memories to mirror the details of the initial accusation.  All the sudden multiple people are making similar accusations and the masses believe that because "multiple people are making the same claim" it has to be true.

 

The folks mentioned above are scum and the lowest form of humanity, but I'm just saying we need to be critical when we hear about these kind of accusations.



#4
SpartanIlliniCub

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and now Matt Lauer goes down... Listing and reading to the stories on the news it sounds like he was really perverted.  When will this end?  Or are we still just scratching the surface?  Is every old man in show biz a complete creep?



#5
KCSoftball

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All of them need to go, including the creep in the WH. It seems like men in power just can't keep their hands to themselves?



#6
MammaZord

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@FastpitchPapa, I understand what you are trying to say. We do have a culture of "guilty before proven innocent" in the public eye when accusations come out. Certainly there are women who falsely accuse men of rape knowing that the accusation alone will smear the man, and the negative image might even remain if the man is found innocent by a court of law. Michael Jackson comes to mind - many accusations, but never found guilty in the court of law, but still had the reputation as a child molester. 

 

When we are talking about children, I think it is prudent to err on the side of the safety of the child when accusations are raised. To your point about using allegations to "punish" a coach you've felt has wronged you: I played organized sports from the age of 5 until I was 18, including soccer, basketball, and baseball. I've had many coaches who were tough or had made decisions that I (or my team mates) had thought were unfair. Never in a million years did I, or a teammate, feel that a false accusation of ###### harassment could be used to get the coach in trouble. I think you would be hard-pressed to find a CHILD capable of putting together such a scheme. Parents maybe, but I just don't see a child doing this. 

 

Let me also tell you this. Two of my former coaches were charged with possessing child ######. One was my childhood soccer coach who was the NICEST person and NEVER EVER put out the impression he was a creep. He never touched any of us or was mean - he was well liked by parents and even held leadership positions in the community. Turned out he had a stash of inappropriate images on his computer. When he was arrested it was totally shocking to everyone in the community, and very sad for everyone that knew him. No one would have ever expected what was lurking!!! 

 

The other coach was my middle school basketball coach who was also a gym teacher at the school. This guy was the biggest a-hole and not a very good coach. He often yelled at us and belittled us and made inappropriate comments to girls on the team and in gym class. No one liked him, and a lot of us were scared of him. None of us ever thought to say anything to anyone, because as a kid, you assume that if he is a teacher and a coach then he is to be trusted. Why would a kid think otherwise? Turns out he had inappropriate images on his WORK computer. No one was shocked, which makes it all the more maddening that he was allowed to be near children in the first place! 

 

Unfortunately, these people are lurking, and they are attracted to jobs/positions where they have access to, and authority over children. I just do not see where it would be common where a child would make up an accusation against a coach to "punish" them. It is much more likely that a child that is being abused will keep it a secret for fear of getting in trouble. So any accusations made by children, or involving children, should be taken very seriously. 

 

I totally agree that any accusation can ruin a career. I am a teacher, and I also volunteer as a youth soccer coach. Built into the training to be both was the idea that accusations may happen, and I learned steps to take to make sure my behavior could never be construed as abuse. When you work with children, there is a very bold line as far as what is appropriate contact (both physical and communicative) with children. We were told over and over that even an accusation will ruin your career, so make sure you are never alone with a child and never to make any physical contact with a child, even a hug! Also, never to share any personal information (home phone, address). This may seem harsh, but like I said, even an accusation can ruin a career. 

 

My point is - those who work with children know these rules. If false accusations are a fear, don't break these rules! Dr. Nassar should NEVER have been alone with a child, and if he were a TRUE professional, he would have made sure there was someone else in the room with him. He is a scum bag, and everyone should have seen that when he was allowed to be alone with children. Hell, even as an adult when I had a male ob/gyno he had a female nurse present at all my exams!!!! 



#7
FaspitchPapa

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After a flurry of accusations in November and December the pace of denunciations seems to have slackened.  After some reflection I think that nearly all the men accused recently are guilty of improper conduct.  Here is why I think that... I imagine being the manager or supervisor of Matt Lauer or Charlie Rose and hearing these accusations.  And after hearing I would go directly to Matt Lauer or Charlie Rose and say "listen, there are some serious potential lawsuits pending.  Are these accusations true?  If not then we will go to bat for you and fight to clear your name, but don't make us go through the time and expense and make us look like idiots if the accusations are in fact true."  I have to imagine that these types of conversations happened, and that the employees said there are truth to the accusations and then either resigned or were terminated.

 

The only person I have heard say the accusations are not true is Tavis Smiley.  Everyone else has either been silent or said they were sorry for their actions.  The accusations did not spread like wild fire and become a witch hunt as I imagined.  Instead it looks like a few awful people finally got what was coming to them.  Good riddance creeps.



#8
MammaZord

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It certainly has been a wild few months. I agree with your summation, Papa. In the case of Matt Lauer, I read that his treatment of women was an open secret at NBC, and he got away with it because he was the #1 talent for the network's morning show. His accusers probably were encouraged to come forward when they saw other men in power fall from grace. I am glad he got the boot, but it is shameful that the powers that be let the abuse go on and on because Lauer was a star. 

 

Obviously this problem is not confined to the upper echelons of politics, sports, and entertainment. Women in all walks of life have to be constantly on guard, and it really stinks. Hopefully in the new year there will be a effort for better behavior. 






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