Thursday, 29 September 2011

Former Gymnasts Make Sexual Abuse Charges against Olympic Coach

A former U.S. Olympic team coach, whose trainees include some of the biggest American female gymnasts of all time, is headed for disgrace after three women came forward to allege that he sexually abused them.

The coach, Don Peters, has some sterling achievements to his credit, including coaching the women's team at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He is also credited with developing SCATS, a Huntington Beach gymnastics club with a reputation for producing champions. All of that glory hangs in the balance however, after three women came forward to make allegations of sexual abuse against him.

The three women include Doe Yamashiro, a former member of the U.S. National Team who trained under Peters at SCATS in the ‘80s. According to her, he began abusing her when she was 16, and the abuse ultimately resulted in sexual intercourse when she was 17 years old. The second accuser, an unidentified woman, was also a gymnast at SCATS, and she says that she had sexual intercourse with Peters when she was 18 years old. Both this woman and Yamashiro have signed a sworn declaration about the truth of the abuse.

According to Linda McNamara, who was a former assistant director at SCATS, Peters also confided in her about having sex with both of these women, and another third teenage gymnast. The women have already reported these allegations to USA Gymnastics, and an investigation could soon begin.

California sexual abuse lawyers are not so surprised that the gymnastics floor is as fertile an environment for sexual abuse as the swimming pool. USA Swimming has been rocked by a sexual abuse scandal, involving coaches who preyed on young swimmers.

In individual sports like gymnastics and swimming, there is a special relationship that exists between a coach and a young athlete. For coaches in these situations, taking advantage of a young charge is much easier than it would be for a coach in charge of a team of athletes. Some of these young athletes train for up to forty hours a week, beginning when they're in grade school. It's easy for a coach to assert absolute authority over a young girl, and ultimately take advantage of this trust.

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