Loss of Balance: Destructive Legal Mechanisms Within USA Gymnastics Policy and their Contributions to a Toxic and Abusive Environment
Since the 1980’s, USA Gymnastics has emerged as a producer of Olympic champions, international success, and athletic excellence. However, with that growing dominance came a network of sexual abuse perpetuated among individuals at all levels of the organization. This paper seeks to examine the way in which USA Gymnastics allowed such abuse to continue and thrive by creating a system in which athletes were discriminated against in their inability to come forward without fear of retribution. I analyzed the rules and legal mechanisms in place within the organization and how they might prevent athletes and/or their coaches from wishing to come forward. I also sought out instances in which these rules were put into practice or warped for the benefit of abusers and enablers. Ultimately, my research showed that the hierarchy of the organization and the rules it enforced were structured in a way that any athlete wishing to report abuse had to risk being ostracized or not taken seriously. In addition, there were many discreet elements embedded in the culture of the organization, and the sport as a whole, that contributed to a toxic atmosphere that was wholly not conducive to safety and fairness in the practice of reporting abuse.
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