Did USA Gymnastics ignore sexual abuse complaints against coaches?

Gymnastics sex abuse scandal?
Gymnastics sex abuse scandal? 04:11

As the Summer Olympics get underway in Rio, a new report unveils a possible sexual abuse scandal at USA Gymnastics. An IndyStar/USA Today Network investigation alleges the organization has a policy that may have harmed child athletes because warnings of suspected misconduct by "member coaches" were ignored.

The paper is reporting that on multiple occasions USA Gymnastics compiled complaints of coaches accused of sexual misconduct, but refused to share the information with police -- most often dismissing it as "hearsay" because the complaints were not made by the victims, those young athletes or their parents, reports CBS News' Dana Jacobson.

Lisa Ganser's daughter first stepped into gymnastics at a Georgia gym in 2002. Four years later and while accumulating awards, someone began sending the girl "inappropriate emails."

"My mind was just reeling. I had no idea what we were up against," Ganser said. "I felt like somebody was definitely closer to my daughter than I wanted them to be."

Ganser shared the emails with federal investigators who identified the sender as gymnastics coach William McCabe.

"This coach we thought was our friend. This coach had Thanksgiving dinner with us," Ganser said.

He is now serving 30 years in a federal prison, and Ganser is suing USA Gymnastics.

"He knew where we lived, he knew our habits," Ganser said. "He knew a lot of things about us that scared us and it scared her."

Ganser also learned that USA Gymnastics had a file of sexual misconduct complaints on McCabe dating back four years before her daughter met him.

"They didn't report all allegations because they considered certain allegations hearsay unless they came directly from a victim or a victim's parent," IndyStar investigative reporter Marisa Kwiatkowski said.

The investigation reports USA Gymnastics compiled so-called "complaint files" on more than 50 coaches. The paper's investigators are uncertain how many have been shared with authorities.

"We don't know how prevalent the issue of child sexual abuse is in gymnastics ... because we don't have access to those sexual misconduct complaint files and also because many situations like this may not have been reported to authorities or to USA Gymnastics," Kwiatkowski said.

Kaylin Brietzke says her coach, James Bell, started abusing her at a USA Gymnastics-affiliated gym in Rhode Island when she was seven years old.

"My mom asked me, 'did Jim ever touch you in your private parts?' You know, I remember it like it was yesterday," Brietzke said.

More than a decade earlier, police and USA Gymnastics fielded complaints of the coach's alleged sexual misconduct.

"Any corporation that puts their reputation above safety honestly isn't something that I want to be a part of, at all. And I was part of USA Gymnastics for a very long time," Brietzke said.

Initially arrested in 2003, Bell ran from police until his capture and sentencing last year.

USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny released a statement to IndyStar/USA Today Network investigators, saying USA Gymnastics "will remain diligent in evaluating new and best practices which should be implemented," adding the group remains "committed to working with the entire gymnastics community... to promote a safe and fun environment for children."

But for ex-gymnasts like Brietzke, those efforts so far have fallen short.

"Doesn't matter who you're protecting, it doesn't matter that they're part of your organization and you want to save face. How about saving me?" Brietzke said.

USA Gymnastics released a statement CBS News saying it "provided the Indianapolis Star with substantial information on its policies and procedures to demonstrate the organization's commitment to the safety of its athletes within the scope of its jurisdiction and governance structure. ... We feel the Star left out significant facts that would have painted a more accurate picture of our efforts."