She added, “Efficient investigations and case closures help increase confidence in the process and create a safer environment for all.”
The action against Han follows years of troubling accusations by his athletes — including by the former national-team gymnast and Olympic alternate Ashton Locklear — that he verbally, physically and emotionally abused them, upsetting Locklear and at least two of his other gymnasts so much that, they said, they considered suicide.
In 2018, those gymnasts spoke to The New York Times as Congress was investigating U.S.A. Gymnastics’ involvement and cover-up in the case of Lawrence G. Nassar, the former national team doctor found to have molested hundreds of young girls and women under the guise of medical treatment.
The Nassar case revealed a deep and longstanding culture of abuse and fear in the sport, with coaches pushing their athletes beyond a healthy limit of physical training and mental toughness, all in the pursuit of college scholarships and medals. Yet investigations into some coaches, including Han, have taken years to be resolved. In his current case, it appears that SafeSport’s action stemmed not from the many accusations that have been filed in the past, but from new allegations that the center will look into.
In the past, Locklear and several other gymnasts, as well as Avery, had filed reports against Han with either U.S.A. Gymnastics or SafeSport. While some of the accusers received periodic updates on the investigation, they said, investigators told them that their inquiry into Han and the way he treated his young athletes was still ongoing. Despite the severity of the claims, those cases were still ongoing with no explanation from SafeSport of why the inquiries have remained unresolved.
Those gymnasts claimed that Han hit them, pushed them, threw his cellphone and shoes at them and berated them. He would separate gymnasts, some who were as young as 9, into a “fat group.” If they cried, those gymnasts said, he would call them stupid or unworthy of his time.
The parents of one of Han’s gymnasts told The Times in 2018 that they felt pressured to refrain from reporting Han’s abuse to authorities because he controlled the fate of their daughter to receive a college gymnastics scholarship.