USA Gymnastics bans coach for sexual misconduct with athlete

CHICAGO (AP) The group that trains U.S. Olympic gymnasts announced on Tuesday that it has banned one of the top coaches in Illinois after an investigation revealed he had violated its code of conduct by engaging in a sexual relationship with an athlete.

According to a brief news release, Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics put Todd Gardiner on the list of permanently ineligible coaches. The release said that Gardiner was placed on the list ”based on a complaint and following an investigation and hearing process” that found he violated sections of the Code of Ethical Conduct that prohibits having a sexual relationship with an athlete.

USA Gymnastics spokeswoman Leslie King would not provide any details about the relationship, including when it occurred. The Illinois Gymnastics Institute in the Chicago suburb of Westmont did not return calls for comment about Gardiner’s status with the facility. But King said the institute is a USA Gymnastics member and cannot be associated with Gardiner in any way.

A call to a phone listing for a Todd Gardiner was not immediately returned.

Gardiner, who is not charged with any crimes, has been one of the state’s most respected gymnastics coaches for nearly 40 years. According to a USA Gymnastics regional website, Gardiner has won numerous awards, including being named a Regional Coach of the Year five times. He also established the ”Chicago Style Meet” at Navy Pier, which has become one of the largest gymnastics meets in the world.

The news release about Gardiner follows last week’s sentencing of Larry Nassar, a former elite sports doctor whose sexual assault cases have rocked USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. Nassar was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for possessing thousands of images of child pornography. He’s also awaiting sentencing in January in state court in Michigan after pleading guilty to molesting girls.

Olympians McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas say they were among Nassar’s victims.

King, the spokeswoman for USA Gymnastics, stressed that Gardiner had nothing to do with Nassar’s case or the charges against him.