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US gymnastics coach faces child porn charges

A gymnastics coach in the US state of Wisconsin is facing child pornography charges for secretly recording athletes at his training center locker room and bathroom, police announced Thursday.

Kivisto
Kivisto

The accusations against James Kivisto, 49, come as USA Gymnastics, the sport’s governing body, is reeling from an expansive sexual abuse scandal involving a once star doctor who molested hundreds of gymnasts, including Olympians.

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A sheriff in the Midwestern state said investigators found at least 100 “inappropriate images” on devices owned by Kivisto, who lived in and operated the Wind Lake Gymnastics Center, a facility he owned for 11 years in an outer suburb of the city of Milwaukee.

Kivisto was a gymnastics coach at other facilities dating back to 1987, police said, adding that they expect to find more images as they continue to examine the coach’s electronic devices.

Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling noted that Kivisto had listed more than 800 students on his facility’s ledger.

“We know that there are going to be hundreds of victims,” Schmaling told a Thursday news conference.

“We’re going to expose every aspect of this disgusting man’s character dating back to 1987.”

Kivisto was arrested Tuesday on multiple counts of child pornography, after a parent reported finding a hidden camera inside the gym’s bathroom.

Police discovered additional cameras in the facility’s locker room, as well, Schmaling said.

“He admitted that he viewed those images for his own personal satisfaction,” the sheriff said, adding that investigators had so far not discovered any evidence of abuse or that he distributed the images online.

Kivisto remains in jail in lieu of $500,000 bail, police said.

Kivisto was investigated in 1999 for child pornography by law enforcement in another Milwaukee suburb, the sheriff said.

The local prosecutor’s office could not immediately provide information to AFP about the results of the earlier investigation.

The Wind Lake Gymnastics Center claims on its website that it is a “USA Gymnastics Member Club,” and has met safety and background check requirements set by the governing body.

USA Gymnastics, whose entire board resigned earlier this year over the Larry Nassar scandal, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A once highly-regarded gymnastics national team doctor, the 54-year-old Nassar is accused of abusing more than 260 athletes over two decades.

He was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison in January.

AFP


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