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Ex-AAU official accused of sex abuse; group defends actions

The allegations by two men against the AAU‘s top executive since 1992 were first reported by ESPN‘s Outside the Lines on Friday. Dodd, 63, did not respond to several interview requests.

Memphis police director Toney Armstrong confirmed to ESPN and The (Memphis) Commercial Appeal that his department had been contacted by the AAU and was looking into the allegations. “Although this case has its challenges due to the amount of time that has passed, it will be thoroughly examined. And if the investigation reveals the law was violated, the person responsible will be held accountable,” Armstrong said.

Ralph West, 43, of Miami told ESPN that he was assaulted in Memphis in 1984. A second unidentified man also told ESPN that he was sexually abused by Dodd. Both men said the alleged abuse occurred between the ages of 12 and 16 in the 1980s when Dodd was a YMCA director in Memphis, ESPN reported. West told the sports network there were a half-dozen times from 1983 to 1985 in which Dodd molested or attempted to molest him.

Both men said they contacted the AAU, which is based in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., separately in early November with claims that Dodd had molested them, according to the ESPN report. Both accusers said they never went to police and only recently told their families. And both said news reports about the Penn State child sex abuse case prompted them to independently confront Dodd in November.

Ron Sachs, a crisis-management expert from Tallahassee, Fla., who is representing the AAU, defended how it responded to the allegations. Sachs said the AAU removed Dodd from his position days after it found out about the allegations and weeks before it was contacted by ESPN.

Sachs said the AAU actions were in stark contrast to the incidents at Penn State and Syracuse.

The AAU learned about the abuse allegations through anonymous emails and phone calls it received between Nov. 7 and Nov. 9, Sachs said.

AAU officials questioned Dodd about the accusations at a meeting held Nov. 14.

“He flatly denied the allegations to his officers,” Sachs said.

The AAU board then placed Dodd on a leave of absence pending an internal investigation, and Sachs said the organization seized Dodd’s work computer.

As a result of its own investigation, the organization cut ties with Dodd, according to Sachs. On Thursday, the AAU turned over its findings to police in Memphis.

AAU interim president Louis Stout said in a statement Saturday that the AAU had opened an independent investigation into the allegations. “(It) will include outside expert assessments about the safeguards we have in place and the screening and training we provide to staff and volunteers,” he said. Stout said Dodd recently had surgery for colon cancer and would not return to the AAU.

The AAU, founded in 1888, has more than 500,000 participants and 50,000 volunteers and sanctions more than 34 sports programs, according to its website. USA TODAY partners with the AAU on its annual selection of the Sullivan Award, given to the nation’s top amateur athlete.

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