The gymnastics community let out a collective “shock” and “disbelief” on Monday upon learning the news that former elite gymnast Todd Gardiner of the Illinois Gymnastics Institute and one of the most decorated Illinois coaches in the sport was found by USA Gymnastics to have violated their code of ethical conduct.
According to the USA Gymnastics governing board, Gardiner was cited with violating provisions concerning sexual misconduct and a sexual relationship with an athlete. On Dec. 7, Gardiner was placed on the list of coaches permanently ineligible to coach in USA Gymnastics.
USA Gymnastics sets the rules and policies governing the sport in the United States which selects and trains over 148,000 athletes, including Olympians and those competing in World Championships.
In response to NBC 5 Investigates inquiries, USA Gymnastics said: “An individual is placed on the list based on a complaint and following an investigation and hearing process. Each accused member has the right and opportunity to participate in the investigation and hearing process. An individual who is on the Permanently Ineligible for Membership List may not be employed or associate in any way with a USA Gymnastics member club, nor may he/she participate in any USA Gymnastics-sanctioned event.”
Former Team USA national gymnast Kristina Comforte, who was coached by Gardiner from beginning at the age of 12, expressed disbelief.
“It doesn’t add up,” the former UCLA gymnast told NBC 5, saying she had never experienced or witnessed any wrongdoing by Gardiner, her coach of seven years.
A gymnast from Hinsdale, Gardiner was a five-time national elite champion competing at the Olympic level before coaching elite gymnasts the past 38 years out of Illinois Gymnastics Institute in Westmont.
He started the “Chicago Style Meet” held at Navy Pier and considered one of the largest gymnastic meets in the world. Gardiner is not the subject of any criminal complaint or investigation and did not return our request comment.