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Air Force Academy punishes gymnasts; basketball staffer under investigation

The Air Force Academy is taking disciplinary steps against its men's gymnastics team after a probe uncovered underage drinking, and the academy also is investigating allegations of misconduct by a men's basketball staffer.

The announcement Thursday comes a month after academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson ordered a review of conduct within the school's athletic department in response to an investigation by The Gazette newspaper of Colorado Springs, Colo. The academy confirmed it is seeking discipline but refused to release details, citing the federal Privacy Act.

"Incidents over the past year have revealed a pattern of unprofessional behavior and underage drinking by the Men's Gymnastics team," the academy said in a news release. "The incidents did not involve sexual assaults or illicit drug use; however, they are not in line with the Academy's institutional values."

The academy gave little information on the alleged misconduct by a member of the basketball staff.

"The Academy will conduct an investigation and release information, as appropriate," the academy said.

In August, the Gazette reported a pattern of misconduct among athletes at the academy dating to 2010. Athletes were involved in sexual assault, drug use, cheating on tests, binge drinking and other forbidden behavior, the investigation found.

After academy investigators were told that athletes at a 2011 party in Manitou Springs may have used date-rape drugs to incapacitate girls before sexual assault, the academy launched a sweeping probe dubbed "Operation Gridiron." That investigation targeted 32 cadets, including 16 football players. It led to three courts-martial and the dismissal of 17 cadets.

Johnson reacted to the Gazette's story on the misconduct by calling for an Inspector General's review of the athletic department to determine whether athlete and coach conduct is in line with the school's values.

Although the academy acknowledged that it had found more misconduct, the school isn't saying how it is disciplining those involved. When asked to provide more information on how many cadets were facing administrative punishment or courts-martial, an academy spokesman said he didn't know.

"All I have is what you see in the press release,"' spokesman Meade Warthen said.

©2014 The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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