US Committee defends gymnastics body amid abuse claims

Rio de Janeiro, The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) on Friday defended USA Gymnastics amid accusations they failed to report sexual abuse by predator coaches.

The Indianapolis Star newspaper claimed on Thursday to have found multiple examples of USA Gymnastics failing to alert authorities on abuse cases, accusations the gymnastics body's president Steve Penny vehemently denied.

And hours before the Rio Games were due to get underway, USOC Senior Director of Safe Sport and Ethics Malia Arrington defended the gymnastics organisation. 

"Abuse is an unfortunate reality in our world, and it has been an unfortunate part of sport as well," she said in a statement.

"For a number of years now, the USOC has been steadily enhancing our efforts in this area. Our efforts to protect people from abuse, especially child abuse, have increased dramatically."

Arrington said the USOC had formed a task force and hired a director of SafeSport in 2011 to deal with the issue. "This year, the U.S. Center for Safe Sport named its board of directors and is now preparing to launch its services in 2017.

"USA Gymnastics has been one of our most active, supportive, and concerned partners in this endeavor." Penny denied claims their organisation turned a blind eye to abuse claims.

"We share the outrage that sexual assault victims and their families feel," Penny said.

"This is why USA Gymnastics has implemented Safe Sport training and created educational materials that encourage members to contact law enforcement first when reporting incidents of abuse.

"We will continue to work with the USOC and the National Center for Safe Sport, along with our clubs, parents, and athletes to protect every child."