Sexual abuse in youth tennis
When a player reports sexual abuse in youth tennis, one of the biggest obstacles is ensuring that the sports organization holds that coach accountable. Unfortunately, in many cases, organizations protect the tennis coach instead of the player. Complaints of sexual misconduct stay within the organization, never formally resolved or criminally investigated by the police.
In 2014, a new initiative to protect players from abuse was created with all governing sports committees expected to participate. The U.S. Olympic Committee noted that every sport agreed to participate except one, the United States Tennis Association or U.S.T.A. Gordon Smith, U.S.T.A.’s executive director and C.O.O. at the time, felt that sports associations could opt-out of an oversight committee if they could “police themselves.”
However, U.S.T.A. proved that they could not police themselves since one coach, Normandie Burgos, was arrested repeatedly for sexually abusing his male players. U.S.T.A. never took any action against Burgos, who was eventually sentenced to 255 years in prison for the sexual crimes he committed against his tennis players.
The Burgos case highlights the problems within sports organizations. They are often unwilling to conduct thorough background checks or hold coaches accountable for crimes they have committed.
According to the U.S.T.A. website on February 4, 2021, “the individuals below are subject to measures imposed by the United States Tennis Association Incorporated (USTA) and/or the U.S. Center for SafeSport pursuant to its authority under the Bylaws of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and SafeSport Authorization Act of 2017, and the USTA.”
|Name||State||Published Misconduct||Respondent Status|
|Anibal "Anibal Aranda" Aranda Villalba||FL||Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Harassment||On Probation|
|Colin Sullivan||MN||Criminal Disposition – involving a Minor||Permanently Ineligible|
|Daniel Wilson||MN||Criminal Disposition||Ineligible|
|Donald Gagnon||Criminal Disposition – involving a Minor||Ineligible|
|Doug Overmyer||IL||Criminal Disposition||Ineligible|
|Douglas Booth||FL||(Subject to appeal / not yet final), Sexual Misconduct – involving Minors||Permanently Ineligible|
|George Carlyle||MN||Criminal Disposition – Sexual Misconduct||Ineligible|
|James Natale||FL||Criminal Disposition||Suspended|
|Jason Bettuo||KY||Criminal Disposition – involving a Minor||Permanently Ineligible|
|Javier Pozo||MO||Criminal Disposition – involving a Minor||Permanently Ineligible|
|Jean-Romel Cyril||NV||Criminal Disposition – Sexual Misconduct||Ineligible|
|Kevin Rust||MN||Criminal Disposition – involving a Minor||Ineligible|
|Kieran Townsend||MN||Criminal Disposition – involving a Minor||Ineligible|
|Mark O’Neill||PA||Criminal Disposition – involving a Minor||Ineligible|
|Maurice Thomas-Riley||CT||Criminal Disposition||Ineligible|
|Nathan "Nate" McLain||MN||Criminal Disposition – Sexual Misconduct||Ineligible|
|Noel Callaghan||CO||Criminal Disposition – involving a Minor||Ineligible|
|Normandie Burgos||CA||Criminal Disposition – involving a Minor||Permanently Ineligible|
|Patrick Khandroo||CA||Criminal Disposition – Sexual Misconduct, Criminal Disposition – involving a Minor||Ineligible|
|Rex Haultain||MO||Criminal Disposition – involving a Minor||Permanently Ineligible|
|Robert Love||KY||Allegations of Misconduct||Suspended|
|Criminal Disposition – involving a Minor||On Probation|
|Sayed Amir||CA||Criminal Disposition – involving a Minor||Ineligible|
|Sean Sueno||HI||Sexual Misconduct – involving a Minor, Intimate Relationship – involving a Minor||Permanently Ineligible|
|Sylvester "Robbye" Poole III||FL||Criminal Disposition||On Probation|
|Thomas Rouse||OR||Criminal Disposition – involving a Minor||Permanently Ineligible|
|Victor Villareal||NM||Criminal Disposition||Ineligible|
|William Scandalis||CA||Sexual Misconduct||Permanently Ineligible|
As a consequence of U.S.T.A. turning a blind eye to Burgos, the tennis victim sued U.S.T.A for failing to take action to protect them against Burgos.
Another case involved a victim reporting the sexual abuse she experienced as a tennis player at Poly Prep Country Day School in New York. Despite experiencing sexual abuse in the 1980s, her case was investigated under New York’s Child Victim Act. William Martire, who runs a youth tennis camp, had been accused of forcing young players to give him oral sex. The victim, who did not report the crimes to her parents, quit the tennis team and was afraid to report it to school officials because Martire was a “school icon” and felt that administrators would not believe her.
When an unrelated sex abuse case was filed against Poly Prep, the victim spoke up about her own sexual abuse experience at the school. “Both lawsuits name Poly Prep itself in addition to the teacher and coach because the suits claim that in both instances there is reason to believe that faculty at the school knew of the alleged abuse and failed to act to protect the children.”
Once again, it is unfortunate that another victim of youth tennis sexual abuse felt that no one with the power and authority to stop a sexual predator would seriously take a complaint.
In the era of MeToo, victims need to be given the benefit of the doubt, especially when there are claims of sexual abuse between an adult and a young child.
If you are a survivor of youth tennis sexual abuse or sexual assault, call our Athlete Abuse attorneys for a free and 100% confidential consultation.