SafeSport investigates Austin-area gymnastics coaches for alleged misconduct

Investigations

One coach calls allegations false, says he wasn't given 'opportunity to even speak' before suspension

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that late Wednesday SafeSport removed all interim measures against Jeffrey Beal, according to his attorney. Beal has been removed from SafeSport’s list while its investigation remains open.

AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — Two unrelated coaches who worked at separate Austin-area gyms are under investigation by the national group that governs the sport of gymnastics.

This month, USA Gymnastics restricted contact with underage athletes for Barry Hyder, formerly of Capital Gymnastics, and Jeffrey Beal, owner of Olympia Hills Gymnastics.

Neither Hyder nor Beal has been charged with a crime.

Former athletes Chantal Aguirre and Sierra Hill are both 22 years old now. Between ages nine and 16, they were coached by Hyder.

“It starts innocently, right? I mean, you win at a meet, of course you get more hugs, of course you get praise. The problem is when boundaries get crossed,” Aguirre says.

Aguirre competing as her coach, Barry Hyder, looks on. (Courtesy Chantal Aguirre)
Aguirre competing as her coach, Barry Hyder, looks on. (Courtesy Chantal Aguirre)

“For him, specifically, it was much more common that the hands would travel, in my personal experience,” Hill says. “Breasts or butt is where it would typically go.”

Aguirre and Hill say they filed a complaint with USA Gymnastics July 28, 2020.

USAG works in tandem with the U.S. Center for SafeSport for sexual misconduct cases.

Another former gymnast, Abbie Hillis, also filed a complaint about the same coach July 8. SafeSport reported her case to police last week.

Hillis talked about her experience in a podcast episode from May 27.

“One of the biggest memories of inappropriateness that I have with him is that he would ask us to bounce up and down on the trampoline so that he could watch our boobs bounce,” Hillis recounts in the May 2020 episode.

Hillis also says Hyder asked them to try on clothes belonging to his ex-wife.

“At one point, he had clothes in the trunk of his car, for some reason, that were hers and asked us to have a fashion show and asked us to try on those clothes that were hers that were incredibly inappropriate to be putting on,” Hillis says.

Hill (pictured) said gymnastics made her feel powerful and she wants others to have more positive experiences with gymnastics (Courtesy Sierra Hill)
Hill (pictured) said gymnastics made her feel powerful and she wants others to have more positive experiences with gymnastics (Courtesy Sierra Hill)

Hyder is now listed on the USAG and SafeSport websites as a coach in Arkansas.

This month, he was placed on the agencies’ suspension lists, indicating he is not allowed to have unsupervised contact with minors.

USAG’s website states an interim measure, like Hyder’s suspension, is not a “finding of misconduct,” but rather a “precautionary measure” while an investigation continues.

“That caveat doesn’t mean anything to the general public,” says Russell Prince, a managing partner at Palma & Prince P.A, who has represented dozens of clients when it comes to SafeSport.

“The general public simply, in the post-Larry Nasser-era—with all of the things that have happened in the sport of gymnastics—sees a suspension from the U.S. Center for SafeSport and they immediately believe that whatever happened is true, that whatever the allegations that have been made have been vetted. That the person on that list has had the opportunity to respond,” Prince says.

Prince is not connected with Barry Hyder.

He represents Jeffrey Beal, who founded Olympia Hills gymnastics in Buda.

Beal confirms he’s under investigation by SafeSport after being accused of inappropriate conduct in 1993 during his tenure at Karolyi Gymnastics and says, “the allegations are completely false.”

Jeffrey Beal’s full statement to KXAN News regarding the U.S. Center for SafeSport’s investigation.

USAG put Beal on the suspension list last week.

Prince says his client was not contacted before being suspended.

“The problem isn’t to detract from claimants — that’s not what we’re attempting to do. What we simply want to get to is a place where there’s a fair balance with how the process plays out on the front end so that people like Mr. Beal aren’t lumped into categories of people who have been inviolate of the rules,” Prince says.

Prince says SafeSport lessened the terms of Beal’s suspension late Tuesday afternoon.

On Wednesday, Beal’s status was updated on SafeSport’s website, indicating he still faced the measures of, “Travel / Lodging Restriction(s), Coaching / Training Restriction(s), Contact / Communication Limitation(s).”

Then on Wednesday evening, Prince informed KXAN that SafeSport had removed all interim measures against Beal and removed him from its list, however SafeSport’s investigation remains open.

Prince says SafeSport should be commended for the latest decision, but damage has already been done to his client’s reputation.

“The point of the matter is, by dropping the suspension, the center, to a certain extent, is at least acknowledging that it wasn’t appropriate on the front end,” Prince says.

The attorney says next Beal will interview with SafeSport and prove all of his exculpatory evidence.

Beal is not under investigation by law enforcement.

Hyder did not respond to KXAN’s multiple attempts to reach him.

In an emailed statement to KXAN News, the owner of Capital Gym, where Hyder used to work, says:

“The health and safety of our athletes are our top priority at Capital Gymnastics, and we have a number of safe-sport policies and procedures in place to prevent the opportunity for misconduct to occur.  We have no knowledge of the issue regarding Mr. Hyder’s suspension.  If needed, we are prepared to cooperate fully with any investigations related to this matter.  Capital Gymnastics supports the efforts of the U.S. Center for SafeSport and USA Gymnastics to promote a positive, encouraging and safe environment for athletes to pursue their gymnastics dreams.”

Jim Jarrett, Capital Gymnastics

Aguirre and Hill say they enjoyed their time at other local gyms; Hill says moving to a different gym, for her, “was like going from night to day.”

“After I stopped being a gymnast, I started coaching. And I coached at a very amazing gym,” Aguirre says.

“That is one of the first times I was ever in a healthy gymnastics environment,” she added.

  • Sierra Hill during competition (Courtesy Sierra Hill)
  • Sierra Hill during competition (Courtesy Sierra Hill)
  • Sierra Hill during competition (Courtesy Sierra Hill)
  • Sierra Hill during competition (Courtesy Sierra Hill)
  • Chantal Aguirre during competition (Courtesy Chantal Aguirre)
  • Hill (pictured) said gymnastics made her feel powerful and she wants others to have more positive experiences with gymnastics (Courtesy Sierra Hill)
  • Chantal Aguirre during competition (Courtesy Chantal Aguirre)
  • Chantal Aguirre during competition (Courtesy Chantal Aguirre)
  • Chantal Aguirre during competition (Courtesy Chantal Aguirre)
  • Chantal Aguirre during competition (Courtesy Chantal Aguirre)
  • Chantal Aguirre during competition (Courtesy Chantal Aguirre)
  • Chantal Aguirre during competition (Courtesy Chantal Aguirre)
  • Chantal Aguirre during competition (Courtesy Chantal Aguirre)
  • Chantal Aguirre during competition (Courtesy Chantal Aguirre)
  • Chantal Aguirre during competition (Courtesy Chantal Aguirre)
  • Chantal Aguirre during competition (Courtesy Chantal Aguirre)
  • Aguirre competing as her coach, Barry Hyder, looks on. (Courtesy Chantal Aguirre)

They hope by speaking out, they can change the gymnastics club culture so that everyone feels empowered at every gym.

“I loved being able to do things that made me feel powerful. And I want other people to have that positive experience without the negative,” Hill says.

You can report misconduct, with the option of remaining anonymous, to USA Gymnastics here.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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