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Thursday
Nov172011

Former US Olympic Gymnastics Coach Banned over Sex Abuse Charges

Digital Vision/Thinsktock(INDIANAPOLIS) -- In a week already marred with a mounting sexual abuse scandal at Penn State, a former U.S. Olympic gymnastics coach has had his coaching privileges permanently revoked and has been kicked out of the sport's Hall of Fame following an investigation into sexual abuse allegations.

Don Peters, 62, who led the 1984 U.S. Olympic women's gymnastics team with all-around champion Mary Lou Retton and coached many gymnasts to medal podiums over several of decades, has been listed as "permanently ineligible" for membership by USA Gymnastics, the nation's governing body of the sport.  The action means he can no longer work or volunteer at more than 2,000 member clubs across the country.

Two of Peters' former gymnasts have come forward in recent years to say that he had sexual intercourse with them in the 1980s when they were 17 and 18 years old.  Peters, who resigned from USA Gymnastics earlier this year, had argued that his banning was "moot" because he had already relinquished his membership, and his attorney attacked the investigation.

"The investigator hired by USA Gymnastics tainted and corrupted the interviews of the witnesses against Coach Peters," attorney Kevin O'Connell said.

USA Gymnastics is standing by the findings of its hearing panel, which essentially said it believes the allegations of the two now-adult women.  The case was not referred to law enforcement because the statute of limitations had passed.

"They can remove [Peters] from their corporate Hall of Fame," O'Connell said, "but they cannot remove the gold medals from the team he coached."

Gymnastics is not the only sport to come under the spotlight for sexual abuse of athletes by coaches.  An ABC News 20/20 investigation -- "The Coach's Secret" -- in 2009 revealed that USA Swimming has quietly banned some 36 swim coaches for life because of sexual misconduct allegations.  Following a series of reports, USA Swimming enacted numerous child protection policies and background screening procedures.

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