Dutch sports unions confirm track coach abused young athletes
Britain's Dina Asher-Smith, right, crosses the line ahead of, from left, Germany's Rebekka Haase, Switzerland's Salome Kora and Netherlands' Naomi Sedney in the women's 4x100-meter final at the European Athletics Championships in the Olympic stadium in Berlin, Germany, Aug. 12, 2018. AP Photo/Martin Meissner

The Dutch track association confirmed today a trainer who has been accused of sexually abusing young athletes received a lifetime ban from the sport during summer of last year.

Reports released by the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf identified the athletics coach as Jerry M. from Rotterdam who is suspected of abuse at multiple athletic clubs dating back to 1983.

Athletics Union director Pieke de Zwart confirmed the accusations after the De Telegraaf’s report. According to the report, M. made a full confession before the disciplinary committee of sports and judiciary institute ISR, after investigations into his “border-crossing behavior since ’83” had begun. The investigation revealed that at one club M. had “frequent (unprotected) sexual intercourse for the duration of several years, causing the pregnancy of two underage girls.

A total of nine cases of abuse were discovered by the investigation, but according to the disciplinary committee, there may be more victims.

In 2000, one of M.’s victims went to the police to press charges, before the statute of limitations was reached. The anonymous victim later decided to only file a declaration, after she was informed of what pressing charges would entail and the subsequent consequences.

“I was alone at the time, you know. And if there would be another report later, I would still press charges. But unfortunately, my report was lost by the police.”

Due to the statute of limitations, most of M.’s assaults are barred from formal prosecution.

The athletic union said in a statement it was not able to press criminal charges because victims did not want to go to the police.

“We would have preferred to see this become a criminal question rather than remaining at the level of a disciplinary procedure because what happened is, of course, terrible,” said de Zwart.

Under the current guidelines, anyone convicted by the ISR disciplinary committee can, after a period, obtain a Declaration of Good Behavior which would allow individuals to return to their former trainer positions. De Zwart said he would like to have the committee judiciary have access to disciplinary convictions to better assess who receives a good behavior pass.

The rampant sexual abuse and assault of young athletes here and abroad is a telling sign of the need to strengthen protections for athletes while closing legal loopholes allowing corrupt athletic organizations to walk away with minimal consequences.

As a stop-gap measure, USA Gymnastics filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection December 5, 2018, stopping all pending litigation—100 lawsuits by 350 plaintiffs, calling for an estimated $150 million in damages.

Victims of Larry Nassar and USAG’s mishandling of abuse reports are left out in the cold while “reorganization” takes place.

“At every turn in this case, (USA Gymnastics) has done everything possible to delay, obstruct and dismiss the survivors’ claims,” said John Manly, California-based victims’ advocate representing over 100 Nassar victims.

A report from the Dutch Olympic Committee shows that 12 percent of Dutch athletes experienced “sexual transgressive behavior in their sports club as a child” and four percent faced either sexual assault or rape.

“It is urgent to combat sexual intimidation and abuse in sports much more actively,” wrote the NOC-NSF. “Reports about sexual harassment and abuse in sport do not often lead to effective follow-up steps, and the measures and sanctions that are imposed are in most cases mild.”

The report also included several recommendations for improvements in addressing sexual abuse in sports.

Dutch police were unable to comment on the reports released Sunday evening.


CONTRIBUTOR

Al Neal
Al Neal

Al Neal is a sports columnist for People’s World writing on politics, labor relations, and the general rabble-rousing in professional sports. He spent a decade working in the trade union movement with various locals across the country and currently serves as Dir. of Education and Advocacy for the St. Louis Workers’ Education Society. A member of the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Sports Media Association, National Society for Newspaper Columnists and the NewsGuild, Neal’s work and reporting has been featured in the Labor-Tribune, Buzzfeed News, Russia Today (RT), Sputnik News Wire, and Getty Images. More words at GrandStand Central.

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