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Changes at USA Gymnastics put Denver center in national spotlight

DENVER -- This week, USA Gymnastics adopted reforms to better report and respond to claims of sexual misconduct, and that put a Denver center in the national spotlight.

Now, all members nationwide must report suspicious conduct to legal authorities and the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is located in Denver.

“We`re getting calls from people saying, ‘I saw this take place. Is it appropriate? Is it inappropriate? Who do I talk to? Can I file a report?’” said Shellie Pfohl, the president and CEO of the center.

The center opened in March and it’s not just for gymnasts.

From swimming to hockey, the group will handle reports from 47 national governing bodies that represent 13 million people. That includes the local youth level.

“So you might have a youth hockey team that is a member of USA Hockey, for example.  So it does include local grass-roots organizations,” Pfohl said.

The group was chartered by the U.S. Olympic Committee, but it is an independent non-profit organization. It has trained investigators on site, and many are former law enforcement officers.

The center currently is working 45 open cases that span 21 sports, both youth and adults.

Investigators at the center are mandatory reporters to law enforcement, so there could be dual investigations happening at once.

Even if an act is not criminal, it could break SafeSport code, and the center does have the authority to hand down sanctions, up to a lifetime ban.

“Now, what our hope is is  that individuals will feel comfortable. They will know that we have a process in place,” Pfohl said.

The group’s other big push is education and prevention.

“Do parents know if their youth sport coach has had a background check?” Pfohl asked.  “There are a lot of travel teams.  Where are we sending our kids? And with whom ? And are there policies in place to make sure that there are two adults present at all times?”

Plus, in the world of social media and texting, they want to establish clear rules about what is, and is not appropriate contact.

The entire SafeSport code and other resources can be found at the organization's website.