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Feds probe sex abuse in U.S. Olympic organizations

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Federal investigators are looking into the way the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and national governing bodies of Olympic sports handled sex-abuse allegations, people with knowledge of the investigations told The Associated Press on Friday.

The probes, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, come in the aftermath of the Larry Nassar sex-abuse cases that led to massive turnover at USA Gymnastics and the USOPC. The Journal, citing people familiar with the investigations, reported that the probes were wide-ranging and involved grand jury subpoenas that were sent to the USOPC and the U.S. Center for SafeSport — the organization formed in 2017 to handle sex-abuse cases in the Olympic world.

The people who told the AP about the investigations spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss ongoing probes.

The Wall Street Journal reported that prosecutors have spoken with potential witnesses about alleged abuse and misconduct in Olympic sports organizations, including USA Gymnastics and USA Taekwondo.

The Journal said USA Gymnastics’ lawyers have been responding to Justice Department subpoenas as recently as April, according to bankruptcy filings. The federation filed for bankruptcy last year.

In response to The Journal story, Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., sent out a joint statement saying the USOPC and its NGBs “turned a blind eye to criminal conduct and then (tried) to sweep it under the rug.”

“Everyone who allowed abuse to continue must be held responsible for any and all violations of the law,” the senators said.

They have proposed a bill that would strengthen congressional oversight of Olympic organizations.

USA Gymnastics issued a statement that read: “USA Gymnastics is striving to become an athlete-centric organization that keeps athlete safety and well-being at the forefront of everything it does. USA Gymnastics has cooperated fully with any governmental investigation and will continue to do so in the future.”

USA Taekwondo said: “While we are limited in what we can say while legal proceedings move forward, we want to state clearly that above all else, our top priority at USA Taekwondo is the safety of our athletes.”

The USOPC said it could not confirm the investigations.

“Every instance related to potential or actual abuse of athletes warrants thorough investigation,” spokesman Mark Jones said. “We have cooperated with all government inquiries and will continue to do so.”

One of the people familiar with the investigations told the AP the Justice Department is looking into how the FBI handled reports about Nassar’s abuse that it received from Steve Penny, who was CEO of USA Gymnastics when he delivered the information. He later resigned under pressure.

Nassar, the former national team doctor for USA Gymnastics, is now serving an effective life prison sentence for child porn possession and molesting young women and girls under the guise of medical treatment.

U.S. beats Japan in Olympic baseball qualifier, may still need help

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The U.S. handed Japan its first loss in the Premier12 global Olympic baseball qualifier, at the Tokyo Dome no less, but now the Americans must root for the host nation.

The Americans, with a roster mostly of Double-A and Triple-A players, won 4-3 over a Japanese team that includes some of its domestic league’s biggest stars like two-time Central League MVP Yoshihiro Maru and veteran shortstop Hayato Sakamoto.

Outfielder Jo Adell, MLB Pipeline’s top-ranked prospect on the U.S. team, starred by reaching base four times with a home run.

Japan is already qualified for baseball’s Olympic return as the host nation.

The U.S., meanwhile, has a sense of urgency at Premier12, the first of a possible three tournaments in which it could clinch an Olympic spot.

At Premier12, the top-ranked nation from North and South America qualifies for the Olympics. The tournament is at the super-round stage of the final six teams, and two are from the Americas: the U.S. and Mexico.

The top four nations after each has played five games advance to gold- and bronze-medal games.

Mexico already beat the U.S. and ran its super-round record to 3-0 on Tuesday, clinching a spot in the medal round.

The U.S. moved to 1-2 in the super round on Tuesday and must at least get into the same medal-round game as Mexico to keep its hope of finishing as the top team from the Americas.

Japan could help, since it plays Mexico on Wednesday. If Mexico beats Japan, the Mexicans clinch a spot in the gold-medal game, which would put more pressure on the U.S. to win its last two games (vs. Australia on Wednesday and Chinese Taipei on Friday). Even then, South Korea would get into the gold-medal game if it wins out.

If the U.S. is not the top team from the Americas at Premier12, it can still earn an Olympic berth in March. But then it faces trying to come up with a roster at the end of MLB’s spring training rather than during the offseason. MLB teams may be less inclined to release minor leaguers.

“That’ll be a delicate dance,” U.S. general manager Eric Campbell said before Premier12.

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College gymnast dies after practice accident

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — An accomplished gymnast at Southern Connecticut State University has died following a serious spinal cord injury suffered in a training accident.

Melanie Coleman, 20, of Milford, Connecticut, was training Friday at New Era Gymnastics in Hamden when she was injured, said her mother, Susan Coleman.

She was taken to Yale-New Haven Hospital and died Sunday.

Coleman was a former All State gymnast at Jonathan Law High School in Milford and was captain of the school’s gymnastics team. She was named a Women’s Collegiate Gymnastics Association Scholastic All-American this year.

Her former club coach, Tom Alberti, said she attained a level 10, the highest level in the USA Junior Olympics Program.

She was a junior studying nursing, following in the footsteps of her two older sisters, her mother said.

“She’s from a very large, loving family; there’s seven of us, we were the Coleman seven,” Susan Coleman said. “We spent every day together for the past 20 years.”

She volunteered at the gym where her accident occurred.

Her coaches and professors described her as a special young woman who excelled in both the classroom and gym, college President Joe Berolino said in a written statement.

“Our deepest sympathies are extended to her family and friends on this tragic loss,” he said.

People the family has met by traveling to gymnastics events around the country are giving support that is “holding us up,” Coleman’s mother said.

She described her children, which also include two sons older than Melanie, as “inseparable.”

“We’re going to leave an empty space in our photos for her” from now on, Susan Coleman said.