Olympic champ Angelo Taylor continues to coach despite guilty plea in Georgia case
Two-time Olympic champion Angelo Taylor posted a reminder on his Instagram Sunday.
“Summer track season begins!!” Taylor, the 2000 and 2008 Olympic 400 meter hurdles gold medalist, wrote. “Parent meeting tomorrow Monday May 13th at 6:15 p.m. Dm for inquiries.”
Next to the message was a photo of Taylor’s business card as head coach of the East Atlanta Track Club. In addition to Taylor’s contact information the card also read “USATF Certified Coach.”
Taylor continues to coach young athletes despite being arrested for child molestation twice in 2005 for incidents involving two 15-year-old girls, the Southern California News Group has learned.
While Taylor’s arrest violates the U.S. Center for SafeSport’s code for sexual misconduct and should make him subject to suspension or lifetime bans from Olympic sports, he continues to be listed in good standing with USA Track & Field, the sport’s Indianapolis-based national governing body, and compliant with its safe sport policies.
The U.S. Center for SafeSport’s code has supersedes those of national governing bodies like USA Track & Field since the U.S. Olympic Committee created and financed center opened in March 2017.
“The Center’s Code supplants legacy codes,” said Dan Hill, a spokesman for the U.S. Center for SafeSport, referring to the NGBs.
Although USA Track & Field and U.S. Center for SafeSport officials have been aware of Taylor’s arrests since at least April 26, he remains listed on both USA Track & Field’s SafeSport Compliance List and national coaches registry. Taylor is even on the board of directors for USA Track & Field’s Georgia association.
Taylor was arrested twice in 2005 for child molestation in two separate incident involving two 15-year-old girls. He later pled guilty to lesser charges and was granted probation.
To be included on the USATF SafeSport Compliance list individuals must be current USATF members, have passed what the organization describes as “an an extensive USATF background screen pertinent to their role within USATF,” and completed a U.S. Center for SafeSport training course.
To be included on the USA Coaches Registry individuals are required complete a coaching education course and be listed on the organization’s Education Standard List and SafeSport Compliance list. Taylor, 40, is listed as a Level 1 coach on the USAF Education Standard List.
“Allowing these coaches to continue to coach weakens the (integrity) of SafeSport and creates a vulnerability” for young athletes, said Katherine Starr, a former Olympic swimmer and founder of Safe4Athletes, a non-profit foundation that advocates athletes and helps sports organizations adopt policies and programs to prevent misconduct toward athletes.
“(Taylor) should be permanently banned. We shouldn’t even be having this conversation.”
The Taylor case further raises further concerns about effectiveness of the safe sport network within American Olympic sports. It highlights issues pointed to by former Olympians and members of Congress about the reliability of background checks, the continued inconsistencies between safe sport rules for national governing bodies and those of the U.S. Olympic Committee created and funded U.S. Center for SafeSport. It also reveals how coaches can be given a seal of approval from a national governing body even after pleading guilty to charges related to sexual misconduct.
“It keeps parents blind of criminal activity,” Starr said of the system that has cleared Taylor to coach. “It creates a false sense of security for parents.
“This (case) is really infuriating. We continue to have a system riddled with fallacies. Kids just want to go do a sport, develop as a young person, enjoy the culture around the sport. Yet there are these landmines that they are constantly having to avoid and they don’t even know they’re there.”
Taylor did not respond to multiple telephone calls or emails requesting comment. Norman Wain, USATF’s general counsel, also did not respond to telephone and email requests for comment.
After attending Southwest DeKalb High School in Decatur, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb, Taylor went on to Georgia Tech where he was the 1997 NCAA 400 hurdles runner-up. His breakthrough year came in 2000 when he not only won the Olympic 400 hurdles title but was also member of the U.S. 4×400 relay that also won a gold medal. (The IOC stripped the U.S. of the 2000 4×400 relay gold medal in 2012 after Team USA member Antonio Pettigrew admitted using performance enhancing substances.)
Taylor struck gold again in both the 400 hurdles and 4×400 relay at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing then added a relay silver medal at the 2012 Olympics in London.
Taylor coached with Elite Speed Summer Track Club in Decatur from March 2016 to August 2018, according to his Linkedin page. He also states on the page that he has coached 15 athletes in the last three years, 13 of which have earned college scholarships. Taylor has also worked in recent years as a private instructor in the Atlanta area for CoachUp, a nationwide coaching network not affliated with USATF. Taylor’s CoachUp bio states that he has been “Background Check Verified.”
“This coach has passed an identification, basic background, and sex offender check,” the page said.
Taylor has also been advertised as a special guest instructor at the 2019 Speed & Agility Clinic, a four-week, eight session event in Dacula, Georgia (June 4-27).
The East Atlanta Track Club is registered as a youth club with USATF. The club’s board consists of Taylor, as the organization’s president and chairman, his brother Jarvis as vice president and treasurer, and another brother Corey as secretary. All three brothers coach at the club.
“I hold student-athletes, parents, and staff in high esteem and interact with everyone to the highest degree of professionalism and integrity,” Angelo Taylor said on his Linkedin page. “I am passionate about providing guidance, support and encouragement aimed at developing character and skills in young men and women.”
Taylor was charged with child molestation and enticing a child for indecent purposes in January 2005. Taylor was arrested after police discovered him nude with a 15-year-old girl in the back seat of his GMC Yukon shortly before 1 a.m. at Fork Creek Mountain Park in DeKalb County, east of Atlanta, according to a DeKalb police statement at the time. Both felony charges could have each resulted in 20-year prison sentences.
A month later Taylor was arrested for molesting another 15-year-old girl in a December 2004 incident. His brother Corey was also arrested in the case.
Taylor’s arrests made headlines around the world. The cases are even mentioned on Taylor’s Wikipedia page.
Taylor pled guilty to contributing to the delinquency of two underage girls in January 2006 as part of a plea deal in which DeKalb prosecutors dropped child molestation charges. He was fined $2,500, given three years probation and required to undergo an evaluation for sex offender treatment. Taylor is not listed on Georgia’s sex offender registry.
Corey Taylor reached a similar plea deal. While he is listed as a coach with the East Atlanta Track Club, he is not on the USATF coaches registry or SafeSport Compliance list.
USATF requires a background screening program for staff members, board members, Association board members, coaches, officials, authorized Athlete Representatives, committee chairs, and volunteers of clubs. The program was put in place, USATF said, in part to “Provide an environment where parents can feel good about allowing their child to participate in the sport of track and field; and (m)aintain the sport of track and field as an environment that discourages the presence of those who would seek to harm athletes.”
The lack of uniformity in background checks between the different national governing bodies under the USOC and their reliability has been a major concern for athletes’ rights activists for years.
“They aren’t reliable,” Starr said. “Background checks should never be the sole determining factor” in deciding whether an individual is eligible to coach.
“Parents should understand that for the safety of their children they need to go beyond the information made available to them by (the NGB),” Starr said.
Under “Prohibited Conduct” the U.S. Center for SafeSport states “The privilege of participation in the Olympic Movements may be limited, conditioned, suspended, terminated, or denied if a Participant’s conduct is or was inconsistent with this Code and/or the best interest of sport and those who participate in it.”
The prohibited conduct includes sexual misconduct and child abuse.
“It is a violation of the Code for a Participant to engage in Sexual Misconduct,” the code reads. “Sexual Misconduct offenses include, but are not limited to: 1. Sexual or Gender-related Harassment 2. Non-consensual Sexual Contact (or attempts to commit the same) 3. Non-consensual Sexual Intercourse (or attempts to commit the same) 4. Sexual Exploitation 5. Bullying or hazing, or other inappropriate conduct ofa sexual nature.”
USATF defines “Prohibited Conduct Sexual Abuse” as “1. Any sexual activity where consent is not or cannot be given. This includes sexual contact that is accomplished by deception, manipulation, force or threat of force, regardless of the age of the participants, and all sexual interactions between an adult and a minor, regardless of whether there is a deception or the minor understands the sexual nature of the activity.”
In listing its “screening criteria,” USATF states “convictions for, disclosures of convictions for, and pending dispositions for any of the following crimes, and registrations or sanctions, or disclosures for any listed registrations or sanctions, will prompt a determination that an applicant ‘does not meet’ the criminal background screening criteria:
“Any felony including an element of violence or of a sexual nature regardless of the amount of time since the offense, and any non-violent felony within the past five (5) years (felony defined as any crime punishable by confinement greater than one year).
“Defined on the basis of exposure to the offense for which the defendant was convicted, pled guilty or pled nolo contendere. If pled down, then the crime to which the defendant ultimately pled.”
But SafeSport code, which supplants the USATF code, states “It is a violation of the Code for a Participant to be or have been subject to any disposition or resolution of a criminal proceeding, other than an adjudication of not guilty, including, but not limited to: an adjudication of guilt or admission to a criminal violation, a plea to the charge or a lesser included offense, a plea of no contest, any plea analogous to an Alford or Kennedy plea, the disposition of the proceeding through a diversionary program, deferred adjudication, deferred prosecution, disposition of supervision, conditional dismissal, juvenile delinquency adjudication, or similar arrangement.”