World Champion Gymnast Says Abuse in Gymnastics Dates Back to the 1980s

Despite the recent firestorm against USA Gymnastics and the organization’s handling of sexual abuse, one world champion says that the problem goes far deeper than the hundreds of complaints that have surfaced in the last two years. Marcia Frederick says the problem goes back to the 1970s when her coach abused her for years. Frederick says that her coach routinely abused her for several years at the height of her competitive career. She said the abuse took place inside and outside of the gym. She said it eventually derailed her competitive career. The abuse began when she was 16 years old.

When Frederick tried to blow the whistle and report the abuse to USA Gymnastics, she says the allegations were dismissed. She says that the abuse was condoned by officials and that she was blamed for her own abuse. She says that adults preyed on her and didn’t stand up for her.

Frederick says her complaints fell on deaf ears. She says that there’s been no action taken against the coach who denies anything ever happened. She says that the failures in her case are just one example of the governing body’s systemic stifling of sexual abuse complaints. Frederick says that there are other coaches from the same era who abused gymnasts without consequence.

For her, the consequences have been severe. She doesn’t speak to her father. She’s haunted by the events of the past. However, she says that USA Gymnastics officials are more concerned with protecting their reputation than they are about making sure more innocent children don’t become victims.

The United States Olympic Committee delegates leadership of gymnastics on a national level to USA Gymnastics. The organization oversees national competitions and selection of athletes for representation at international events. In the wake of mounting criticism, CEO Steve Penny resigned with a severance package of approximately $1 million. Some are calling on the U.S. Olympic Committee to decertify the entire organization and appoint new leadership for governance of the sport in the United States.

In addition to Frederick, world and Olympic champions Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney have all disclosed that they’re victims of abuse at the hands of USA Gymnastics officials. World champion Maggie Nichols was the first athlete to make a complaint that led to an investigation and the publicity of what appears to be decades of abuse of minor athletes. The athletes and their families say that USA Gymnastics appears to have grossly failed in their obligations to notify authorities of suspected child abuse.

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