Episode 56 Transcript

SCOTT: Until the Karolyis are out of the picture and no longer the powers that be in this sport, then I think you’re always going to have issues with not just sexual abuse, but all kinds of abuse of young athletes. Because I think the tone that’s set at the top that these kids are disposable and this kind of Darwinian thing where if you can’t hack it or if you have some problem with the way things are done, there’s always somebody else to step right up. And I think because of that, the Karolyis can have this program of just it’s our way or the highway and I think this feeds into this larger issue of abuse of athletes that hasn’t really been properly addressed.

 

[EXPRESS YOURSELF INTRO MUSIC]

 

JESSICA: This week, the reporter who changed gymnastics forever, an Olympian working to prevent abuse before it happens, and USAG joins us to detail their abuse awareness campaign.

 

ALLISON TAYLOR: Hey gymnasts, Elite Sportz Band is a cutting edge compression back warmer that can protect your most valued asset: your back. I’m Allison Taylor on behalf of Elite Sportz Band. Visit elitesportzband.com. We’ve got your back.

 

JESSICA: This is episode 56 for October 22, 2013. I’m Jessica from masters-gymnastics

 

BLYTHE: I’m Blythe from the Gymnastics Examiner

 

JESSICA: This is the number one gymnastics podcast in the world, bringing you the most important topics from around the gymnastics world.

 

[SOUND BYTE]

 

JESSICA: The entire episode today is devoted to preventing abuse. And we’re going to start with looking back at the past and looking forward to the future and all of the resources that are available to people now. Today’s show is by no means the full perspective on sexual and physical abuse, emotional abuse in gymnastics. This is just the tip of the iceberg. We tried to keep the show under two hours. So this is just a starting point. It’s the start of a conversation. There’s a lot more that I could have put in this show. But we have to start somewhere. And we didn’t get to touch on abuse of men in gymnastics, which I think is something that’s really underreported. But you have to start somewhere, so this is our starting point. We know there’s a lot of anger and hurt and blame around this subject. There’s also as far as I’m concerned a serious lack of justice. However I had two choices. I could point fingers and get pissed off and rant to myself, or I could give the gymnastics community the information they need to empower themselves. And if you think something needs to be changed, then speak up, do something, and demand it. If you’re a parent, your money is your vote. Tell your gym and your coach what you want to see done. If you want one of the programs on this show implemented, go to your gym tomorrow and tell them what you want. If you’re a gymnast, now you know where to find allies to help you. If you’re a victim of abuse and you need someone to talk to, now you know where to find anonymous hotlines that you can call any time of the day. If you’re a coach and this speaks to how you feel coaching should be, now you have resources to support your philosophy. If you’re a gymnastics fan, I’m going to tell you how you can take action and set things in motion right now and how you can prevent child pornography. Do not take your power for granted. No matter how long it takes, how much time is passed, who believes you, or what anyone else thinks, you are powerful. You make a difference, and you can help make things better. Please please keep that in mind as you listen today.

 

[SOUND BYTE]

 

JESSICA: Now let’s talk about what fans and anyone that browses the internet or goes to a lot of gymnastics meets, how you can prevent child pornography from being filmed. Or when you find it, how to get rid of it. So we were trying to have a FBI agent on the show from the cybercrimes against children division, which is part of Innocent Images. If you google FBI Innocent Images you can find their website. It’s all devoted to protecting kids against cybercrimes and the creation of child pornography. And one of the things that has unfortunately happened over the years is people going to gymnastics meets and taking video that is not- this is one of the other things on the show. I made a point of trying- I didn’t want to create audio porn for anyone. I don’t want anyone to listen to this show and some disgusting creeps and get off on hearing the stories of how people were abused and victimized and [inaudible] over again. I’m just going to say, videos of gymnastics that should not be- that aren’t about gymnastics. So one of the things that- so we were going to have an FBI agent on, but the government shutdown ruined the whole thing. So [LAUGHS] so that did not work out. But, I have a list of things that you can do if you see someone taking video at a gymnastics meet and you suspect that it’s an inappropriate video, you can do the following things. Call the police and report the person. So the important thing in stuff like this is there is a paper trail that starts. So the police will have to file an incident report. There’s going to be some kind of record. So that’s important. There’s some kind of trail that starts. The police can then ask the person to show them their camera. And the great thing about this is they don’t of course have to show them their camera but that’s irrelevant because the agent that I talked to told me that they have caught tons of offenders, a shocking number by recollection, simply by asking to see their cameras or computers and scrolling through the pictures and finding child pornography. And then once they find it, then that’s it. They had the person just by asking. So if you see something, you’re suspicious, just call the police, and they can ask to see the person’s camera. If you’re browsing the web and you find a website that has inappropriate videos, what you can do is report the site to the host. So if they’re hosted by Godaddy you can do that. If it’s a video on YouTube, there’s a link at the very bottom of any YouTube page and it says privacy and safety. And you can report them from there. The other thing that you can do is file a complaint. So the internet crime complaint center, it’s www.ic3.gov. They have the internet crime complaint there. And this will allow the FBI to begin a formal investigation and track the IP address and identity of the site owner. So those are the things that you can do as a gymnastics fan or as a parent or as a fan at a meet. So keep that in mind. You have the power to affect change. You can demand change. This is the theme of the day. And let’s start talking to our guests.

 

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JESSICA: Our first guests are Scott Reid, investigative reporter for the Orange County Register in California. When Scott published his two part investigation about abuse in gymnastics, he detailed the abused by- alleged abuse by Doug Boger, Don Peters of SCATS, and he got people to come forward who had never talked about the abuse they had suffered by their coaches. His piece came out in 2011 around the same time that Jennifer Sey’s book was published. And together they really changed gymnastics forever. After the piece was published and Jennifer Sey’s book came out, there was immediate action by the national governing body in gymnastics, USA Gymnastics. Immediate movement to ban certain coaches and make things change. So Scott joins us today along with Katherine Starr. She is a two time British Olympian. She was in the 84 and 88 Olympics for swimming. She was on the University of Texas swim team when they won three National Championships in a row. She is a survivor of sexual abuse, and she is the founder of Safe4Athletes.

 

BLYTHE: So Scott, maybe you can just begin by talking about the impetus of the 2011 investigation that led to quite a lot of revelations and changes in the gymnastics world. How did this story come about?

 

SCOTT: We’d heard rumblings for years about Don Peters, who was the head coach of the 1984 US women’s Olympic gymnastics team and also ran this gymnastics club in Orange County called SCATS that was kind of a conveyor belt of Olympians and National champions for decades. And every time we pursued it we never really got anywhere. Then I guess it was in early spring of 2011 I got a tip from an anonymous source that Peters had indeed had sexual relations with a number of underage gymnasts, female gymnasts at SCATS. And through various methods I was able to figure out who this anonymous source was. So she put me in contact with a woman by the name of Linda McNamara, who had been an office manager and official at SCATS for a number of years who Peters had confessed to to having sex with a number of underage gymnasts. And one of those was Doe Yamashiro who was a member of the national team in the mid 80s and who was this rising star who never quite lived up to her potential but was a well known gymnast in the mid 80s. So we talked to her and she confirmed that Peters had had sexual relationship with her starting when she was 15, 16, and it lasted for a number of years. And it was pretty horrifying stuff. She was pre-pubescent when he first- be careful legally. But it wasn’t any kind of a first encounter for her. And it was- he was continued to have these sexual encounters with her for a number of years. And we also around this time began talking to some gymnasts at this club- former gymnasts from a club called Flares Pasadena, which was a really well-known club in the late 70s, early 80s. And a number of gymnasts had been sexually abused and physically abused by a coach by the name of Doug Boger. And Boger I believe ran 20, 2009, 2010 after a series of delays by USA Gymnastics had finally been banned based on the testimony of a number of women. He just did totally horrific things. Even by the level of sexual abuse within youth sports, what he did was just off the charts. Putting cigarettes out in kids and just clearly awful stuff. And so he was banned for life by USA Swimming and turned around and got a job at a pretty high profile gym in Colorado Springs just about five minute drive from the United States Olympic Headquarters in Colorado Springs. And he continued to train national team members. And let me backtrack a second. While he was being investigated by USA Gymnastics, he not only was named their national coach of the year, he was also named to their World Championships national team coaching staff. So Boger, even though he had this lifetime ban, was continuing to coach at a prominent gym. And so when our stories finally hit, the owner of the gym fired him. We it turned out the owner of the gym was also a convicted sex offender in the state of Oregon. And he was fortunate in that his offenses just beat the window where the Oregon state legislature passed the law where he would have to register as a sex offender. So he didn’t pop up in a state database. But so he fired Boger and eventually Don Peters banned for life by USA Gymnastics and removed from the Hall of Fame. And slowly but surely, USA Gymnastics implemented a series of reforms. There’s still some questions about whether this loophole that Boger was able to manipulate where the gym, even though they were cranking out national team members all the time and had a very high profile national championships, they weren’t a registered gym with USA Gymnastics. So that enabled them to circumvent the background checks and other checks that USA Gymnastics had placed to ban a guy like that from coaching. So they’ve passed some stuff that hopefully will close those loopholes. But basically because they weren’t a registered gym with USA Gymnastics, they weren’t required to do background checks and report those to USA Gymnastics. So they could hire Boger even though he was on the banned list. And a reporting revealed that Boger was not an isolated incident. There was several coaches nationwide who are on the banned list and continue to work at high profile gyms, at least at that time in 2011.

 

BLYTHE: Ok. And Katherine, a question for you. What could have been done? What options would an athlete have had in the early to mid 1980s if this sort of inappropriate behavior was going on? And it obviously was. Doe Yamashiro, she didn’t know what to do and what her options were. But was there anything like Safe4Athletes and could you describe a little bit about the program and what it does and how it came about?

 

KATHERINE: In clarifying a little bit of my background, my sexual abuse started in 1982. And I swam both in the US, very much in USA Swimming from its inception, as well as swimming internationally. And so from when the abuse started, by experience was I wasn’t the only person that this was happening to. So there was sort of like- I didn’t feel unique. I didn’t feel different, and was just sort of well this is the cost of doing business. As sad as that sounds, there was no resources, nobody responded. It was just people turned their head the other way. And it was just well, ok. And assumed that you wanted it, was sort of my general experience witnessing that of my friends. And I’ve said this several times, I swam at the University of Texas on three national championship teams. And while I was there, there was four of a small group of 20 swimmers, there were four swimmers that were sexualy abused with their youth coaches prior to even getting to college. So that’s a very high number for just feeling like you have a voice and can do anything about it. So and actually how Safe4Athletes started was I actually started coaching about three years ago. And what I realized was it’s not one thing had changed as far as the vulnerability of athletes and the relationship with their coaches. And that I didn’t feel that athletes had a voice. And walking through the process and seeing these swimmers who I improved them very quickly very fast, they would do anything that I asked of them. And I thought to myself, how vulnerable they just these young kids and the parents who would just be like do what you think with my kid. And gave me complete license to taking the kids home, coming over to the family’s for dinner. It was just what you’ve done for this young athlete and given them their self esteem and just gave everything to them. You give them this silver platter. And I couldn’t help but see how vulnerable these athletes were. So that’s sort of what stemmed the thought of all the hurt and pain that I had suffered as a swimmer that I didn’t want to see these kids have the same experience, but have a positive experience as an athlete, and their after sports life be positive as opposed to the pain and suffering I have felt. It’s 30 years ago, and the pain is just as sharp as- it actually probably gets sharper as you get older with my experience. So what I did with Safe4Athletes is- so I reached out to my former athletic director Donna Lopiano and we created a program. And the structure of the program is what makes Safe4Athletes so unique. We have a full handbook and we go through everything in the sports environment of the dos and donts and require coaches to sign the coaches code of conduct which includes no coach/athlete relationship regardless of consent of age. And dealing with bullying, harassment, everything else. But what makes our structure so unique is we require there be an athlete welfare advocate in place. And we’ve implemented Safe4Athletes at every level from youth sports programs to high school to universities, division I university athletic programs. And in universities you’re going to see more of an athlete welfare team versus a single person or a pair, two people  in a larger setting. What that person does is it’s an opportunity for both your teammates and yourself to have a confidential conversation about what’s going on. So I find that there is not a whole lot of ability to resist or to say no. And you have to go with it or your life is hell. So and it’s been all the sudden you’re on the other side, and you’re stuck. And you need a way out. And so this athlete welfare makes it unique to have a confidential conversation. And then what’s also unique about the Safe4Athletes program is it sets a much lower standard of administrative law. So it’s 50% in [inaudible]. More what you see with Title IX in schools and what’s in the workplace for sexual harassment. And the [inaudible] might blow you off and if you have a problem quit, versus let’s protect our environment. And with the Safe4Athletes program, you could actually ban a coach if they’ve deemed to have violated the policy. So at least you have the ability to start developing banned lists and as parents, you can then make an informed decision whether you want to put your child in that program. Now USA Swimming and USA Gymnastics are about the only two sports that actually lift banned coaches. But my experience with USA Swimming is it’s extremely difficult so get a banned person banned in that sport unless- for the most part there’s a few that aren’t, but for the most part it’s a long criminal [inaudible]. So this puts more responsibility in the club locally, it can more quicker, and it goes through a very clear and concise process. If there’s gossip, you get the facts, and it just gives the athlete a voice. And the institution or the club that’s doing this, they have to implement the system.

 

BLYTHE: And this question is for both of you. Well for Scott first of all, as you talked to the victims, what were some of the themes you heard over and over? For example you kind of wrote about Doug Boger and how he made each of this gymnasts feel like they were special and that he has this certain power over them and also on their parents as well. And can you elaborate a little bit more on that?

 

SCOTT: Well I think Katherine, I’ve talked to Katherine over the last couple years and she can speak to this too better than I can. But one of the things about the Boger and Peters situations are kind of universal with these high level of swim clubs and gymnastics clubs and soccer clubs in universities and everything is that there’s a different dynamic in these cases than there are in normal child sexual abuse cases, in that you have for the most part athletes who are very ambitious. And their parents are a lot of times even more ambitious. They have Olympic aspirations or aspirations of college scholarships. And one of the things we saw over and over in the Boger and Peters cases is that those aspirations actually make them more vulnerable to this kind of abuse because they so buy into these coaches and what they believe these coaches can deliver them, for them, that they go through anything. I mean two things that really struck me about those two stories was Doe Yamashiro said several times that the sexual abuse, she just kind of- echoing what Katherine said, it was part of the game. There’s so much abuse of young females in gymnastics, just physical abuse from the wear and tear, and the emotional abuse, the way a lot of coaches- kind of this Karolyi era in gymnastics, that being abused sexually just seemed like another level of abuse. And she said it was almost like it wasn’t the worst thing that was done to her. Everything was horrific about it. And you just kind of accepted that was part of the territory. And then another thing which struck me was I interviewed a woman who Doug Boger in the early 80s was actually brought to trial in LA County for some abuse charges. Not sexual abuse but some physical abuse charges. And I think contributing to minors, kind of stuff. I think providing kids alcohol. And he was let off because in large part because a couple people perjured themselves. One of them was a young gymnast. And she told me she said yeah I did, I perjured myself. I think she was 14 or 15, maybe 16 at the time. And she said one of the things that kept running through her head was if I told the truth, he would stop coaching me and then I wouldn’t be able to go to the Olympics. And that’s the whole mindset of these people. And one of Boger’s- one of the women he abused the most was Charmaine Cairns. And her parents would have Boger over to the house. They treated him like a son. And I talked to Charmaine’s mother a couple years ago, and she said we all had our heads up our rear. We saw what we wanted to see. We all thought our kids were going to the be the next Nadia, and this guy was going to take them to that. So we ignored a lot of red flags. And so I think this is kind of a universal thing throughout all these cases, is that if I report this guy, then he’s not going to coach anymore. I’m not going to go to the Olympics. I’m not going to win a gold medal. All this- my parents have put into me, having gymnastics lessons or swimming, is going to go down the drain. And there’s also they created this mindset that you have to sacrifice to get there. And you have to buy into what this guy is doing. And so this is just part of that mindset. And a guy like Doug Boger or Rick Curl or Don Peters, they can really use that mindset and this vulnerability that this ambition has created to take advantage of these kids.

 

BLYTHE: Katherine, how do you get into the head of a child or a young adolescent and get them to stop thinking like this. Because they’re making sacrifices already and they’re thinking like you said this is all part of the game. All part of the [inaudible]. How do you stop that?

 

KATHERINE: So for my thing is is before it was a 13 year old talking to another 13 year old about how to solve a problem right? So when I go in now and implement Safe4Athletes, what I do is I actually- we talk about how to speak up. And it’s not just about how to speak up about what’s going on if you’re being sexually abused. Whether it’s further injuring yourself, like learning how to speak up and be responded to. And then the way the structure works, if your club that has implemented Safe4Athletes aren’t hearing, we’ve actually adopted now a mobile technology so you can contact us, which I’ll share that later. Through that, in a language and a platform that this new generation can speak to. They didn’t have this back in the 80s. So because what I find is the more channels and more ways that you open up the doors, the more willing they’re going to be able to speak. And I had a recently was implementing Safe4Athletes, and went through this whole thing, and one of the parents came up to me and told me he had never seen his kid before who had always been bullied and all the sudden she felt comfortable and felt safe going to swim practice now. Where before she was like afraid to even be in the setting or can do anything because she didn’t feel like she had a voice. And just kind of hear that feedback of yeah she was singing in the car on the way home and just feeling open that all the sudden that you don’t have to just put up with this stuff and not be heard. And that’s what I’m finding is really the common problem is 1) learning how to speak up, 2) create a system as to where to go and how to handle the situation, and a lot of young kids are afraid of their parents or afraid as Scott said in my experience afraid to speak up. And one of the challenges that I had to deal with was my character assassination. So a lot of what happened, rumors get spread around specifically very much around young girls about their sexual prowess, if you will. Whether they’re sexually active. In character assassinating that part of the athlete. You then feel like you don’t have the ability to speak up either. Versus an adult can’t take that away from you. But then just from that piece of character assassination and feeling it just suppresses and suppresses and suppresses. And then at the same time, you’re trying to pursue your Olympic dreams, where in my particular case, I was not chosen for teams because I’m saying no. And my character kept getting more assassinated and more assassinated to the point where my parents were saying you need to listen to what the coach is saying. And it keeps backing you into a corner, backing you into a corner, and you don’t have a voice. And so that’s why I’m an advocate for having an advocate there so you never feel like you’re in a corner with no resources. And you always have an adult who will help you. And that’s what I find- who’s unbiased, it’s not a conflict of interest, and that you want the information out versus having to sit and suffer.

 

BLYTHE: What should you do if you are, say, a gym parent, and you think- you’re at the gym, you’re watching practice, you think that you might be seeing something that you’re not sure. You have suspicions. What should you do then?

 

KATHERINE: Well here’s kind of a situation that I’m dealing with with a very high profile coach. And I know my grooming behavior, and every instinct tells me that there’s something going on. And what I’ve realized is the lack of- if Safe4Athletes were in place, an investigation could be activated. And then we could take that from fiction to fact. Because it would be part of the process. Let’s investigate this. But without the policies and program in place, you’re somewhat left then to this higher legal standard, which is a criminal where you can go to the police and say look I suspect that this is going on. But if you don’t have this beyond a reasonable doubt standard to even activate something, you’re pretty much going to get well just leave or quit or go somewhere else. And one of the dilemmas is as you move up in your skill, and as you continue to develop yourself as a gymnast or swimmer or any athlete, the road gets narrow. And there’s less places for you to go. And less places for you to continue to develop. So that’s what from a parent, the first thing you want to know is what policies are in place. And if this situation arises, how can we respond to it. And if you don’t have a way to respond to it, then you’re stuck. And it stays in the system. So you really need to have something in place so you can respond and it doesn’t sit there as gossip or a question mark.

 

BLYTHE: And this might be a good time to talk a little bit about the statute of limitations for these kinds of crimes in California and in the United States in general. And Scott, can you address a little bit?

 

SCOTT: California has pretty narrow statute of limitations, a much more narrowerer than most of the rest of the country. And that was one of the reasons this bill came up that California sent out last spring called SP131. And what it would have done is extend the statute of limitations for reporting into your 30s and lengthen the window for basically in most states, the statute of limitations is based on a period of after a victim realizes and can connect subsequent problems to prior sexual abuse. So say a girl or a boy was abused as a child, and then in their 20s or 30s they have depression or some kind of issue. And through therapy they can connect their current problem, issue, with prior abuse. And so that starts the clock. And what SP131 wanted to do was not only extend the final age that you could recognize this and the window. So I believe right now in California it’s 26 to file a civil suit in California. It’s age 26 and recognize an issue in a previous three years. And so SP131 would’ve extended that. And the other thing they would’ve done, this was the big sticking point, was it would have opened this one year window for people into their 40s who had experienced sexual abuse but had [inaudible] this link. Would’ve given them a one year window to file this civil suit in California. And this was a pretty frightening process to a lot of people including USA Swimming and the Catholic church. And so they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbyists and negative advertising on TV around the state to fight this. And the senate actually passed it and the house passed it. And then about 10 days ago it was vetoed by Gerry Brown, kind of surprisingly considering it had passed both houses. But he’d been under a lot of pressure from the church between the passage of the bill and when he ultimately vetoed it. So I think a lot of people see this as a major setback for California on this issue. And I think one of the things a lot of supporters said that you have to have a major deterrent like the Catholic church or USA Swimming is that eventually they’re going to have to pay financial penalty. A significant financial penalty. And what SP131 would’ve done is held those organizations who enabled these people and protected these people, force them to address this finally in a court of law. And I think that was one of the reasons why a lot of people were really disappointed with Brown’s veto of SP131.

 

BLYTHE: So in the case of Linda McNamara, who was stuck between a rock and a hard place. She had this information, but the law didn’t allow her to do anything with it. If the same scenario happened today, would she be stuck in the same spot? That is to say if the coach confessed to outside party and the victim didn’t want to come forward, what’s the [inaudible] for for the person who has this information?

 

SCOTT: She would be stuck in the same place. Yeah I mean again this is why the bill was important because at least there could have been a civil action. But yeah, if this happened today and somebody in Linda McNamara’s position was presented with it, they’d be stuck just like she was. It’s a tough spot because a lot of people made the argument she could’ve come forward and brought this public, but then she’s opened herself up to civil case herself. So it’s a tough situation.

 

KATHERINE: One of the other problems with the mandatory reporting in the state of California and in almost every state in the country is that club USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming, USA whatever sport after it is not- except for the state of California that I had something to do with, most club coaches are not mandatory reporters. They’re excluded. It’s a school thing. So another area where she would not have any accountability either.

 

JESSICA: Can you explain what a mandatory reporter is really quick?

 

KATHERINE: So if you have have been disclosed with or have awareness or know of any type of abuse that’s going on with a minor, you’re required to report that to state services. So in the state of California if you’re a teacher and a coach in school system- so coaches are included but only in the school system, in the public school system. They’re mandatory reporters. So if they see one of their athlete or one of the coaches within that system, they would be required to report that by the state. And where- let me give you an example. Water polo typically happens half the year you’re with your high school team, the other half the year you’re with your club team. So if your coach is abusing you with USA Water Polo, and people know about it, they are not required to say anything. But if people know about it in their high school, then they’re required to say something.

 

BLYTHE: And background checks, it’s been pointed out that background checks aren’t always useful because abusers can move from gym to gym in gymnastics or club to club. And does Safe4Athletes have a way to identify coaches who club hop like that?

 

KATHERINE: So if you were to adopt a Safe4Athletes programs, so if we get mass adoption for the Safe4Athletes program, regardless of whether or not the coach left that environment prior to an investigation happening, the process still goes through. And whatever the outcome of that then can be listed on the Safe4Athletes site. So that would eliminate the ability to go coach in California then show up in Virginia or Idaho where there’s less information. And I find even simple things that come up on Google still people don’t really quite look at even though it’s in plain site. And so the other [inaudible] you have with the background check is again it’s a criminal standard. So even if you can go look on USA Swimming, and let’s say that gymnast decides to be a soccer coach, there is nothing that is going to prevent that from going to another sport a sports environment. This is what you know, but that’s not always the case.

 

BLYTHE: And a question for both of you: in what’s been reported, there’s a lot of talk about how sexual abuse often happens in the individual sports, gymnastics, swimming, where the athlete may or may not have a team to fall back on. And gymnastics of course, the girls are very young when they reach a high level. And have you heard about other sports where stories like this have been prominent?

 

KATHERINE: My experience both from what- I just wrote an article on this. Is that the peak age of where the sports are, I believe it’s where the abuse starts. And so gymnastics is probably the youngest peak age. And if you look at sports like cycling, weight lifting, team handball, stuff like that where you have to be 18 before you can even compete, certainly in the Olympics and assume that’s across the board internationally, the same dynamic and the same abuse that can [inaudible] in this environment. But we don’t hear it as much and don’t know about it because it’s considered consent of age. So they’re consent of age. So until we address this as a coach/athlete relationship, we’re going to be in just calling it child sexual abuse. And as Scott said earlier, that it’s not the same dynamic. And I 100% agree with that and have been trying to assure that, to let people know that this is a sport/athlete dynamic that happens both with the male and female. And we’re going to hear a lot more about the younger gymnasts because you don’t have 25 year old gymnasts for the most part. As opposed to cycling, you’re going to be that age, but the same thing happens.

 

BLYTHE: Yeah not as much. And actually the age at which a gymnast can compete in the Olympics since the year 2000, they moved it up a bit. Before you could be 14 years old in the Olympic Games. Now you have to be 16 within the Olympic year. And what it sounds like is the scenarios you’re describing are not a bad argument for moving that age up maybe even further. Would you agree with that?

 

KATHERINE: Well, I don’t necessarily think you need to move the age of the competition up. I was 16 in my first Olympics. What I do think is you need to change the dynamic and the policies around coach/athlete relationships. And I think it should not happen at all. A doctor can’t be involved with their patient, a lawyer can’t be involved with their client. Those are professional relationships. Your boss, you don’t get involved with your boss. Same thing. We haven’t addressed sexual abuse, sexual harassment in a sports environment like you have in the workplace. And Scott and I had a conversation before about this in the sense that he could not say to his worker you’d be out of the building in five seconds, a coach can freely say to his athlete with no recourse and no change in the system.

 

SCOTT: Right. I mean I think it’s not an age issue, it’s a power issue. And recently we did a lot of reporting on a case in Orange County. A swim coach, Bill Jewel, who made all kinds of inappropriate statement to young girls. Also to older women. The kind of statements that if I made it at the Register, I would not only be fired on the spot, but the Register would be pretty vulnerable to a civil suit because of it. Yet this behavior is been accepted. And I think Katherine alluded to this a little bit earlier. I think one of the things that’s gone on too long in these sports is that there’s been this culture of coaches accepting other coaches having affairs with swimmers, underage and of “legal age.” And that this is just accepted. And I think in a lot of sports, especially swimming in gymnastics, I think it was considered almost a perk that you were a male coach and that you had a mistress on the side, whether she was 22 or 16. It was kind of accepted. And one of the reasons there’s been a resistance to banning this relationships at any age is there’s been so many coaches, especially at a high level and especially in gymnastics and swimming, who had these relationships with athletes that they coached. You look at several powers that be in swimming. They are married to former swimmers. So I think that tells you a lot about why there’s been a resistance to change. But it is a power dynamic. I mean if you are an attorney at a law firm and the main partner is pressuring you to have sex, it’s not dissimilar to some woman or young man, whether he’s 16 or 22, has Olympic aspirations. And this coach is saying if you do what I say I’ll get you to the Olympics. And they make it pretty clear that what they mean by doing what I say is everything that they say. And it’s that kind of dynamic.

 

PART 2

 

JESSICA: So if we have some parents listening the show and they wanted to sign up their kid for gymnastics, what are the first things they should ask when they go to a gym?

SCOTT: Well the first thing I would do is what I do with my kids’ coaches. I have a 15-year-old and an 11-year-old, is that I google their name. And fortunately as an investigative writer at the Orange County Register, I have some other things I can do, some background checks and believe me, I do them. I think the other thing is you need to, as hard as it is to find, is to go to the NGBs that do have these lists and see if your guy’s on it. Feel free to ask questions and keep open a dialogue right away with your child. Remember that these people are working for you and they’re with your child. You expect the same kind of accountability out of these people as you would any other people. And then I think you need to check out Katherine’s site. She has a lot of good advice on stuff to look for and stuff to think about that you might not necessarily think about.

KATHERINE: Well and I think you need to have without question, there has to be policies in place. It’s not demanding something like Safe4Athletes, find something that’s equivalent. Albeit, we’re very unique in our structure but having the athlete welfare advocate there, parents can demand that that be in the environment. Parents need to step up and say we need to have a system that’s clear and concise on how to respond to issues that arise. So and with Safe4Athletes, we don’t just address sexual abuse. We address things across the athletic, all abuse, whether it’s physical, emotional, verbal to bullying and harassment. So athlete on athlete abuse to hazing to everything, so we address all of that. and I would require, not that I have kids but I feel like all of these athletes are my kids, that they have protection in place and it’s clear and concise how to respond. There’s so many things, even today, that were rumors when I swam and they’re still in the system.

JESSICA: And one question I wanted to ask about the mentality that you guys have both spoken to, that mentality that if you have this goal, if you have this singular focus in your life, that gymnastics is everything to you and the kids that leave home and they leave their friends and their parents quit their jobs and move them to this gym, it opens them up to abuse because nothing is more important than this one goal. And within that kind of mentality is whatever happens to you is going to make you tougher. It will benefit you in later life. It’s life lessons. If you can live through it, it will make you tougher. I feel like this is a general American mentality that extends to all sports. Is that part of the bigger problem, that people will put up with anything for this kind of goal?

SCOTT: Oh definitely. But I think some sports are more susceptible to it. You have sports like figure skating and gymnastics, where the kids are so isolated, that like you said, a lot of them move from another town, their parents are spending a lot of money on ice time and gymnastics coaching. I think swimming is a little bit more healthy in terms of the environment with other kids and you go on home and you do your homework and watching TV. In gymnastics and some of these other sports, your homeschooled so you have a very small social network as it is. So that relationship with your coach becomes even larger whereas say like swimming or soccer, there’s a social element to those sports. I think that can alleviate some of these feelings of vulnerability that some kids have.

KATHERINE: I don’t think that made a difference in the swimming community. The problem was that the coach athlete relationship was so commonplace and so incestuous as a sport that you’re sort of vulnerable to this not being recognized as being wrong.

JESSICA: So one of the things I wanted to ask you about is it just seems to me like there needs to be some federal legislation that mandates either, people that work with children that mandates the same kind of things that schools have.

KATHERINE: I was going to say I’m an advocate for mandating policy. I actually wanted to make an amendment to the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act that would mandate policy and have every coach be responsible for the Coaches Code of Conduct, having to use the United States Olympic Committee’s Coaches Code of Conduct which does state that no coach athlete relationship. Mandatory reporting is a state by state issue so that would never come up in a federal law. And I’m also an advocate for, regardless of consent of age, to have a professional code of conduct for all sports.

SCOTT: I think there’s an opportunity here, we talked about this a little bit earlier before we got on the podcast, right now there’s a congressional sub-committee that’s looking at USA Swimming. And one of the things I would like to see maybe come out of that, and I think a lot of people would is the creation of a USADA like organization to deal with this issue in sports. I think this sub-committee might be a good place to create this committee, in that it would be independent. One of the concerns that Katherine has and I know a lot of the people do too is that in USA Swimming in their big PR campaign, they rolled out this idea that, this notion that there needs to be such an organization. But I think a lot of the people I’ve talked to, they have concerns about who’s creating this organization. The creation of USADA was kind of a blueprint I think people are concerned about in that USADA was an independent agency created by the USOC with interest in doping and drug testing and that kind of thing. I think if you create a USADA for abuse, it has to be created with people that have no conflict of interest. So you have people from USA Swimming or people from USOC or USA Gymnastics or USA Track. You have to have an independently appointed committee of an independent organization so it’s truly independent and not run by a law firm that is also representing USA Swimming or the USOC or other people.

KATHERINE: And you also need to have people involved that understand the abusive power dynamic in sports and are not strictly child sexual abuse experts because they don’t understand.

JESSICA: And one other thing that you talked about earlier is how this sticks with you for your life. That doesn’t go away. And I wonder if Safe4Athletes has resources available to help people recover, therapy and treatments.

KATHERINE: We have therapists that are highly specialized in the coach athlete abuse. We’re continuing to grow that list because it’s so specialized, we don’t just allow anybody on the list. And then also, I myself have been able to get re-extended care if you will, to some of the more severe cases that needed more than a half hour or a few hour sessions, like 30 or 60  days of extended care to help them. So I’ve been able to do that. And we continue to connect people into legal services that will help individuals and continue to develop that across the country as well. So there’s a lot of resources you can go review on our site.

JESSICA: And another situation I wanted to ask you about which I’ve never really heard anyone talk about anywhere else is how can a team, a coach, a gym support an athlete when they do come out and talk about what happened? I was at a gym, I did adult gymnastics at a gym where this happened. One of the coaches was accused by one of the athletes. The coach confessed right away and he went right to jail and she came back to gymnastics. It was just really awkward for her. Everybody knew what had happened. The head of the gym wrote a letter. It was in all of the newspapers. But how could that have been handled?

KATHERINE: Well what I have found is athlete speaks up, coach gets removed, other athletes bully the athlete that spoke up.

JESSICA: Yeah.

KATHERINE: So and that’s where in the level severity there, they ended up having to quit which then gets you back to square one. Why speak up to begin with? Right? So until we can take on this notion of it takes a village to raise an athlete, then we collectively are all responsible for each other. We need to learn how to respect not just ourselves, we need to learn how to respect others. So in part of respecting others, this mean person approach is not going to solve the problem. If you feel devastated, it’s like a selfish place to come from to be devastated about your own career, let alone the pain and the hurt and the trauma and life of devastation that this person has already experienced and will continue to experience in their repeated relationships over the years. Learn compassion. And that’s what I find is missing in every single one of these places is that it’s all about me in the generic term. It’s that fitness of pursuing the Olympic dream and find more importance. I’m like you’ve got to shut those feelings aside and learn how to be supportive.

JESSICA: Any words, any final message you want to give to them?

KATHERINE: Well I would say check out some of the testimonies on the Safe4Athletes site. I’m more than happy to either connect them with some resources if they maybe want to come forward anonymously. I mean we have a ton of information out there to be able to come forward. And I say the more people that come forward and we ban together, the better chance we have of minimizing this as an issue.

SCOTT: I think the only thing to me, it’s not addressing your question but my concern, and I think a lot of people share this is that this is never, this whole mentality is never going to change until we have culture change in these sports. The concern of a lot of people is that a sport like gymnastics and swimming is that you’re not going to make significant and really change and address this issue until there’s a new generation. In swimming, there’s so many people that have conflicts of interest for different reasons, that they are prevented by those, not literally but at least emotionally and mentally that they can’t pull the trigger and really affect a change. And in gymnastics there’s a culture, especially on the women’s side, until the Karolyis are out of the picture and no longer the powers that be in the sport, then I think you’re always going to have issues with not just sexual abuse but all kinds of abuse of athletes. I think the tone that’s set at the top is that these kids are disposable. It’s kind of this Darwinian thing where if you can’t hack it, or if you have some problem with the way things are done, then there’s always someone else to step right up and America’s such a big country that it’s just the flavor of the month in gymnastics. I think because of that, the Karolyis can have this program of it’s our way or the highway and I think that feeds into this larger issue of abuse of athletes that hasn’t really been properly addressed. Like I said, gymnastics is trying to do a better job but still has a ways to go. There’s a similar situation in swimming where you just have too many people and too many powerful positions that have their own issues within at different levels. As long as they are in those positions, I have concerns and questions of whether we’re actually going to see effective change.

JESSICA: I want to thank you guys both so much. This has just been excellent. I think our listeners will be very interested in this and I think a lot of them will find really good resources through this. So I want to thank you both for being here.

SCOTT: Thank you!

KATHERINE: Thank you for having us on!

[Sound byte]

JESSICA: Our next guest is Lynn Moscovitz-Thompson. She is the Director of Educational Services for USA Gymnastics. She has been a coach, a judge, a gym owner and she’s also a parent. And one of the interesting things she told us when we were going through her bio is that before she got this position and the USAG launched the We Care and the Club Care campaigns, she was shocked at how much she didn’t know about the prevention of sexual misconduct. When USA Gymnastics prioritized this education component, it really helped her understand her responsibility as a parent in protecting her child. So she said before this, she’d never had a conversation with her daughter about coming forward, about talking it, about signs to look out for. And since she’s started this program, she now has and she continues to talk to her daughter about it. So she was just saying how she was really grateful to USA Gymnastics for helping her be more aware of this and to help her protect her daughter. So let’s talk to Lynn.

BLYTHE: Let’s get started with, so can you tell us a little bit about the Clubs Care program and how it came to be?

LYNN: Definitely! The Clubs Care campaign is an educational initiative. The Board of Directors reached out to the education department to increase our safe sports education to four populations: to our professionals, to our parents, to our athletes, and to our clubs. And so we’ve targeted different Safe Sport educational programs for those populations. The Clubs Care campaign is one that was created to help the clubs successfully implement policy, for them to increase the education among their staff, for them to strengthen some of the monitoring that goes on within the club. First of course, raise awareness, then provide zero opportunity for sexual abuse to occur and then to have zero tolerance policies if that were to occur. So Clubs care specifically targeted to club owners and their implementation within their populations.

BLYTHE: I see. And is joining Clubs Care a requirement to be a USA Gymnastics member club?

LYNN: No the Clubs Care campaign is an educational initiative so there is no requirement that they must participate in it. There is a requirement, a member club requirement that individuals must do that have some safe sport built into it, meaning they must have, let me grab this here real quick. They must have an individual on staff that is a professional member and has safety and background check. And mind you, in our safety and background check, excuse me, in the safety program that we provide, it has prevention of sexual misconduct content in that. So they have those requirements in addition to what we require that the member clubs cannot hire or associate in any way with any person who is permanently ineligible for membership in USA Gymnastics or cannot have an association with any person who’s listed on the federal or state offender registry. So those are requirements for membership. They are not necessarily a requirement for the Clubs Care campaign because that is a campaign of educational outreach.

BLYTHE: So what questions should a parent ask before signing a child up for a program?

LYNN: Well there’s a number of questions. And we definitely want parents to be involved. In order to prevent sexual misconduct or sexual abuse, we need not only the clubs to have policy in place, we also need the coaches and the co-workers who work in this manner and we need the parents monitoring. So they are also a big part of this. Before I answer that, I do want to indicate that we do have a program that complements our Clubs Care campaign and it is our parent educational outreach. We call it our We Care campaign. And that provides content and information for parents such as what questions to ask a youth-serving organization about their policies that are in place to ensure safety of their children. So we provide that on our website. We also did send out a mailing to some of the parents of our athlete members. And in it, we had a piece that communicated what parents should ask to a youth-serving organization to ensure that safety. I’d just like to read some of the questions that they should ask. And this by the way, was provided to us from Darkness to Light. They are one of our four educational partners that help provide content to our Clubs Care and our We Care campaigns. So if you don’t mind, I’d like to share some of those questions.How are you staff and volunteers selected? It asks do you perform background checks as well as personal and professional reference checks? Other questions would include is your staff trained in abuse prevention and response? What types of policies are in place to prevent child sexual abuse? Other questions include what is your policy for one-on-one time between adults and children? And what is your policy for reporting abuse and when a report is made, how are the parents notified? These are some of the questions that we encourage parents to ask to ensure that they are enrolling their child in any youth-serving organization that has safety of the child as a priority.

BLYTHE: Can a parent ask to see proof the background check?

LYNN: Well a parent can ask the individual for proof of a background check and they are entitled to do that. They cannot contact USA Gymnastics. We are not allowed by law to give that out to third parties. But they are more than welcome to ask the individual or the club for proof of that. Now I will say in regards to USA Gymnastics and our sanctioned competitions, only professional members that are in good standing are allowed to participate in a sanctioned competition which entails them having passed a background check. So the parents would be aware since they would have been allowed into the sanctioned event, they would have passed that background check and have a professional membership in good standing.

BLYTHE: And how many members in good standing does USA Gymnastics have at this time? Do you have those numbers?

LYNN: I don’t have those numbers. But I would say we are in excess of 16,000.

BLYTHE: Impressive! Now if you’re a gym parent, and I think a lot of gym parents might wonder about this, and you see something that you don’t think is quite right or your child reports something to you that you just don’t think is quite right that might be characterized as abuse, what should you do?

LYNN: Well first of all, let me just back up a little bit. I am a parent of an athlete, so I see it from the education standpoint and from the USA Gymnastics standpoint and also from the parent standpoint. But I want to back up. One of the things you said is that doesn’t seem quite right. We’re really trying to educate the clubs to create policies to take that gray area and not make it this doesn’t feel right but it is a breach of policy. Setting it within their staff code of conduct, which we also call a standard of behavior of what’s acceptable within their organization. But also communicating that to the parents as to what the standard of behavior is. So a parent no longer has to say that doesn’t feel quite right. A parent can report a breach of the standard of behaviors or a breach of policy. So it makes it that much easier for a parent to communicate to the club owners or to the front desk. Instead of saying you know they’re not quite certain and they’re just uncomfortable. A lot of people don’t want to report uncomfortable. They want to report, you said this is the policy. I clearly saw this person didn’t do this policy and I want to make you aware of that. So I kind of wanted to just step back a little bit to tell you where our educational initiative is going from. We want to encourage those clubs to have the standard of behavior and create policy from that so it is easier from the communication piece to the parents.

BLYTHE: Ok. And when a gym reports a violation, what’s the procedure after that? What rules are in place to enforce the Clubs Care program?

LYNN: Now are you talking about within their own organization?

BLYTHE: Yes and as far as USA Gymnastics is concerned

LYNN: Well again, let me back up. Our encouragement is to have the clubs set up a standard of behavior and some of that standard of behavior might be that they do not allow one-on-one situations. Or their standard of behavior might be that they do not allow texting amongst the athletes. So those are some of the standard of behaviors that they might have in place. So the violation of it might be a standard of behavior. There may not be any crime of anything of that sort. So within that organization, they would of course have a policy in place on how to respond to that coach or to that volunteer or to whomever within that organization. We give guidance and recommendations among the clubs with educational campaigns.

BLYTHE: Understood. So basically, it’s like creating a code of conduct that can help both broaden the athletes’ safety and ensure there’s a protocol if there is a problem with a coach.

LYNN: Definitely.

BLYTHE: Understood. You might not be able to answer this but often a coach is fired from a gym and ends up coaching at another club where they repeat the abuse. If a victim won’t press charges, is there anything that can be done legally to stop this cycle of gym hopping?

LYNN: Well legally, I can’t answer on that. but I can answer that again, with our Clubs Care campaign, we’re definitely trying to communicate with clubs that they need to expand their hiring practices. Their hiring practices have to be beyond just the background checks. The hiring practices have to include reference checks. They also have to have personal and professional references. But communicating what your standards are for your program. If you communicate what your code of conduct is and your standards of behavior, that might end the cycle because that abusing individual identifies that they can’t be successful in this environment because this environment doesn’t tolerate it. This environment has policies against it. And that’s communicated up front before a hiring even occurs. So the campaign really works on communicating beyond background checks and expanding that.

BLYTHE: Understood. Does that include resources for victims of abuse to help facilitate the healing process?

LYNN: Yes. Again, we work with four educational partners. We work with the United States Olympic Committee. They have the Safe Sport program. We also work with Darkness to Light, Stop It Now, and Child Lures Prevention. These are four child advocacy organizations that we have partnered with because each one has expertise in certain areas. Some are more for victim support. Some are more for awareness. Others have great parent and athlete outreach pieces. We’ve partnered with them so we can take their pieces and create a stronger campaign for the clubs as well as for the parents. The USOC does have a victim advocacy that you can go to by going to safesport.org or we provide it through our website that links direct to that as well as Stop It Now has a help line that can be called. And again, we provide that information and redistribute that information.

BLYTHE: And this might not be a question that you can answer because it does relate a little bit to policy, but we were really wondering for a coach, if it was possible for them to be banned even if they were never convicted of a crime.

LYNN: Definitely they can be banned. If we feel, if we’ve determined that they have breached our code of conduct in a severe manner, we can ban them from the sport of gymnastics through USA Gymnastics.

BLYTHE: And I assume that the national team programs have the Clubs Care standards in place as well.

LYNN: The national teams, we communicate Safe Sport through again, the Clubs Care specific campaign that we educate through the club program. We also have other avenues of safe sport that we implement through policy development or through educational outreach and it reaches all aspects of our membership.

BLYTHE: Ok. And do you think, Lynn, that there’s a need for federal legislation that would make programs like Clubs Care more effective in helping prevent abuse, like federal legislation that require coaches to report sexual abuse or suspected abuse like that?

LYNN: Well I think anytime you’ve got a larger mouthpiece that is trying to put the child first and it is on a broader base, it’s going to be beneficial. So I definitely agree with that. Now I know since my expertise is with the educational outreach, you know being able to have legislation that also helps educate children and coaches and anyone working with young children, that is important too. USA Gymnastics had an opportunity to speak at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. They had an event called Safe to Compete, where they brought together a lot of individuals who are stepping forward in protecting athletes in this regard. So they tried to put a think tank together to make a louder voice. In there, it was interesting. We had a young lady, her name was Erin, was a victim. It was quite a moving experience. She talked about how while she was being abused, she knew how to say no to drugs because of the DARE program. She knew how to stop, drop, and roll because of the safety and she knew how to not talk to strangers but she had no voice for this type of abuse. She didn’t know how to communicate it. She had been going around state to state and trying to get state legislation to require education in the schools for children. One of the outcomes from this think tank is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have hired a lobbyist to try and make federal legislation for the educational component of it. So I’m witnessing some of that larger voice and it will be beneficial.

BLYTHE: Excellent! And that’s a really nice story as well. We were going to ask you for a success story that you were proud of, if you could share that, that would be great.

LYNN: Yeah definitely. As I indicated, there’s four populations that we’ve been educating: the parents, the athletes, the clubs, and the professionals, which are our coaches. For our parent outreach, we did a mailing to some specific age groups. We did a parent’s guide on how to breach the subject with your child and also to talk about the grooming techniques the predator might be doing to a child. So there was that and there was also a Let’s Talk Teen guide that were provided by our educational partner, Child Lures Prevention. We did mail these out to the parents of our 9-year-old and our 13-year-old athletes. And one of the success stories that came from that is we did get a parent who filed a complaint against a coach. And her awareness to the fact that this crime was happening to her was because she received these materials. She received them, she was reading them, she identified that wait a minute this is what’s going on with my daughter and was able to I guess gain some strength in knowing that hey this shouldn’t be happening and I’m going to do something about it. So that, I think, is a fantastic success story from just that mailing that we did out to parents of those children.

BLYTHE: That’s wonderful. If you could just speak directly to the parents, if there’s one thing that you wanted them to remember, to take away from this interview, what would that be?

LYNN: I believe that their involvement needs to be there. We can’t just assume that the environment is safe. I know that there’s good gym clubs out there that are doing their best and working very hard and providing a safe environment. But whether it be a gym club or a soccer team, or whether it be a swim team, the parents have to have an involvement with that and must participate in monitoring what is going on with their child. Now I also want to encourage them, if they have questions, if they want resources, if they want pieces they can bridge conversations with their children, to go to usagymclub.com and click on the We Care campaign and they will have a variety of resources at their fingertips.

BLYTHE: Excellent. And how long has the We Care program been in place?

LYNN: USA Gymnastics has always taken steps for safe sport. Whether it be policy or required background checks for our professionals or educational components at our regional or national events, the safe sport has always been a part of it. But on a larger, more branded scale like the Clubs Care campaign and the We Care campaign, we launched that August of 2012. So it gave a more visible piece and also allowed a website for people to go back and have those as regular resources, whether it be club owners, professionals, parents.

BLYTHE: And just one last question. And forgive me if this is a policy question, but what is the chain reaction for how it would come to USA Gymnastics if there was a member club that had a coach who had a complaint filed against him or her by a parent or a student. The parents, they would go to a club owner and say something. They should go to the police and say something. And then how does that get reported to USA Gymnastics?

LYNN: That lies in our participant welfare policy. USA Gymnastics has created a document that has those steps in place for reporting and protocol with that. That’s available on our usagymclub.com We Care campaign page as well as our Clubs Care campaign as well as information about USA Gymnastics. And that outlines it. And we encourage individuals to make themselves aware of it as well as we encourage clubs to use this participant welfare policy as a policy template in order to create policy within their own organization.

BLYTHE: I see. It’s not mandatory that if there is a complaint reported, it gets reported to USA Gymnastics as well.

LYNN: If it’s a breach of code of ethical conduct, it’s not mandatory. But obviously, if there’s been a conviction against them, we have that awareness through the background check policy.

BLYTHE: Understood. Ok, well Lynn, that really exhausts our questions. If there’s anything at all that you would like to add, please feel free.

LYNN: Well I’d like to add a thank you of spreading the word. Awareness is the first step. And then from there, we’ve got to create the environment safer and enlist the parents’ help. And I’m very thankful that you’re assisting in communicating the message out there. From the process of us being more in front of the membership with the Clubs Care and We Care campaigns, it’s interesting, when I first started, nobody was talking about this subject. It was talked about and it wasn’t a comfort to it. And as we’ve continued the message, the monthly message whether it be through a print, through our magazines, through email, whether it be on our website or a variety of avenues, we continue to do the messaging. It’s becoming a lot more of a comfortable conversation. Individuals will come up and say before you go do that presentation, I have to tell you my story. Or I want to tell you my story because I want people to know they have a place, they have someone they can talk to. The conversation has gotten more comfortable and more frequent. And I think that that is going to benefit the safety of the athletes too because it’s not a secret anymore. We can talk about and because we can talk about it, we can do something about it.

[SOUND BYTE]

ALLISON TAYLOR: This episode is brought to you by Elite Sportz Band. Elitesportzband.com. We’ve got your back.

JESSICA: Visit elitesportzband.com. That’s sports with a z and save $5 on your next purchase with the code Gymcast.

That’s going to do it for us this week. Let us know what you thought of this episode. You can email us at gymcastic@gmail.com. You can call us at 415-800-3191. You can reach us on Skype. Our username is Gymcastic Podcast. And remember your resources to write down, research, go to, use are Safe4Athletes, usagym.org Clubs Care and usagym.org We Care. There are tons of resources there. There’s videos. There’s even little tests, innocent images from the FBI. There’s even tests that you can give your kids there. There’s sample forms. There’s so many great resources to reach out, 800 numbers that you can call 24 hours a day and Safe4Athletes also has an app. So check those out. Moving on to the fun stuff, Halloween costume contest. Don’t forget! Send us your picture by November 1 to gymcastic.com and the winner will receive a poster of your choice from our friends at Cloud and Victory, the only company who does fan couture. Yes, I’ve decided it’s fan couture. It’s the best thing ever. They just make beautiful things. Go to their site and check it out, Cloud and Victory. And make sure to send us your picture. And let’s see. What else? I’m going on vacation. And I’m going to go to Disney World and I’m going to the Harry Potter park and I’m going to get my wand at Ollivander’s and I’m so excited you guys. I can’t even tell you. So while I am vacationing next week, getting my wand, you guys can enjoy for the first time ever, our Tim Daggett interview uncut, in its full length and glory rerun next week. So please enjoy that if you haven’t listened to it. It’s one of the first shows we did. So I’m sure you will enjoy it. We loved talking to Tim. It was the episode that Blythe brings up every time. And in the meantime, you can support the show by subscribing. You can write a review on iTunes. You can download the Stitcher app. You can donate. You can shop in our Amazon store. And don’t forget about the Halloween costume contest because you guys have the best costumes. We can’t wait. And you really need a poster from Cloud and Victory because they’re the best. So until next week, we’ll see you in two weeks with a new episode. Next week, Tim Daggett full and uncut. And have a fabulous week and thank you for listening and let us know what you thought of this show. Toodles.

SCOTT: Independent USADA like organization created out of all this that these NGBs can’t keep policing themselves. It doesn’t work. Just using the way USADA was set up, it was totally incestuous. Someone needs to appoint an independent body to set up the USADA abuse. You can’t have people from the USOC. You can’t have NGBs doing it because there’s always going to be this conflict of interest.

KATHERINE: On that note real quick, so the person at USA Swimming, the defense attorney for USA Swimming and I’m pretty sure Scott knows this, it’s Rich Young who’s in charge of USADA.

SCOTT: My point exactly. Yeah, he’s the ultimate insider. That’s the problem.

KATHERINE: And he’s the partner of Scott Blackmun law firm to begin with.

SCOTT: Right, right.

KATHERINE: The family tree ranks Scott Blackmun, CEO of USOC, Rick Young, who is the law partner, and Scott if I’ve got this wrong let me know, is the law partner of Scott Blackmun. And then Rick Young is in charge of USADA and his other role is as defense attorney for USA Swimming to fight all the sexual abuse issues that come in.

JESSICA: So he’s defending them and he’s also the person who’s supposed to investigate everything and make sure that these swimmers, these kids get justice. But at the same time he’s defending them and opposing this legislation.

KATHERINE and SCOTT: Correct.

JESSICA: Can you guys describe, for the people that don’t know exactly what USADA is and don’t know all of these different acronyms, what that is and why it had to be set up as independent in order to not be incestuous mess.

SCOTT: Well it’s United States Anti-Doping Agency and it was created by the USOC and funded by Congress in large part around 2000. And it was done because these national governing bodies were testing athletes and also adjudicating the cases and they were doing a really poor job on both ends. There’s all kinds of conflicts of interest. And there was a lot of heat internationally on USOC to do something about such a sad state of doping controls in the US. So they put together USADA but it was put together by people from in house. Basically this law firm that represents USOC and a lot of NGBs. Don Catlin who ran UCLA lab and a lot of other people who had interest in this new organization, financial interests and other interests. And so it was basically set up by USOC. It’s called independent but I think that remains up for debate. There’s just so many connections back and forth in that town between USOC and USADA and all the NGBs which is beyond who is a partner at this law firm that the current USOC chief Scott Blackmun worked at. He’s also the attorney for USA Swimming so there’s all kinds of conflicts of interest.

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