GOLD COAST, Australia — Mihai Brestyan was shocked and angry when he discovered one his star athletes was among the victims in a sexual abuse scandal that plunged USA Gymnastics into crisis.
Brestyan, a long-time coach of six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman, is preparing Australia’s women’s team for the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, where he spoke about the scandal.
USA Gymnastics is reeling from the conviction of former national team doctor Larry Nassar, who will spend the rest of his life in prison on charges ranging from sexual molestation to possession of child pornography.
More than 200 women, including Raisman and reigning Olympic champion Simone Biles, have come forward over the last 18 months to reveal they were victims of Nassar’s abuse.
USA Gymnastics removed its entire board of directors in January under pressure by the U.S. Olympic Committee. Raisman filed a lawsuit against both organizations, contending they allowed Nassar’s behavior to run unchecked.
Speaking at the athletes village of the Commonwealth Games, which start Wednesday, Brestyan said he’s still upset because of the trauma the gymnasts had been subjected to.
Raisman never discussed Nassar’s abuse with Brestyan or his wife Sylvia, who together own and run Brestyan’s Gymnastics in Burlington, Massachusetts.
“It is incredible that no one knew … or if they knew, they didn’t speak out,” Brestyan said. “It makes me so very angry … (this) has happened to one of my athletes,” Brestyan said. “We are so happy that (Nassar) has been caught — but we are not happy that it took so long for him to be caught. He fooled all of us.”
Brestyan said there were lessons for people involved in sports.
“We need to keep working with our parents and our athletes to help them protect themselves and we need to protect each other,” he said. “But I also hope that we do not become paranoid … it is a sensitive subject but kids and parents, the coaches and administration must keep working together and soon as there is a sign, we must check it out.”
Gymnastics Australia chief executive Kitty Chiller has confirmed a full-time child safety coordinator would be appointed to allow allegations of abuse to be independently reported and investigated.
Chiller said the position, a shared resource between the national and the Victoria state federation, would be involved drafting policy, and educating the 600-plus clubs across the country on culture and providing resources. One of the measures will include athletes being chaperoned.
Chiller said recommendations from a U.S. Congressional inquiry and findings from Australia’s own Royal Commission into Child Abuse were consulted to strengthen the federation’s position against child sex abuse.
“After the Commonwealth Games, as a national body, we will release our Child Safe Commitment Strategy co-signed by all the states and territories to show that Gymnastics Australia and all our state bodies and territories are committed to making this our No. 1 priority,” Chiller said.
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