November 5, 2018 8:11 pm

U.S. Olympic Committee moves to revoke USA Gymnastics’ governing status over the sport

In this Feb. 5, 2018, file photo, Larry Nassar listens during his sentencing at Eaton County Circuit Court in Charlotte, Mich.

Cory Morse/The Grand Rapids Press via AP, File
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The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has taken the first steps to revoke USA Gymnastics of its status as the national governing body for the sport in the latest fallout from the sex abuse scandal involving a former team doctor.

The USOC said the challenges facing the governing body, which is trying to recover from a scandal over the sexual abuse of hundreds of female athletes by ex-team doctor Larry Nassar, are more than it is capable of overcoming in its current form.

Coverage of USA Gymnastics on Globalnews.ca:

“This is a situation in which there are no perfect solutions,” USOC chief executive Sarah Hirshland said in an open letter to the gymnastics community. “Seeking to revoke recognition is not a decision that we have come to easily, but I believe it is the right action.

“In the short-term, we will work to ensure that America’s gymnasts have the support necessary to excel on and off the field of play.”

USA Gymnastics has been in turmoil ever since dozens of female gymnasts, including Olympic champions such as Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles, came forward to accuse Nassar of sexual abuse.

In this Feb. 5, 2018, file photo, Larry Nassar, former sports doctor who admitted molesting some of the nation’s top gymnasts, appears in Eaton County Court in Charlotte, Mich.

Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via AP, File

Over the past two years, three CEOs — Steve Penny, Kerry Perry and interim chief Mary Bono — have been forced out of the organization after being criticized for the way they handled the situation.

Bono resigned just four days into the job last month following criticism by some top gymnasts about whether the former Republican congresswoman was fit to lead the organization.

Then Penny was arrested on charges he tampered with evidence in the Nassar case.

USA Gymnastics said in a statement its board of directors was seated in June and inherited an organization it described as being in crisis and with significant challenges that were years in the making.

“In the four months since, the Board has done everything it could to move this organization towards a better future,” the board of directors said.


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“We immediately took steps to change the leadership and are currently conducting a search to find a CEO who can rebuild the organization and, most importantly, regain the trust of the gymnastics community.”

Nassar was sentenced in February to up to 125 years in prison after some 200 women testified about decades of abuse at his hands.

In her letter, Hirshland said “you deserve better” and that the USOC even offered USA Gymnastics the option of surrendering its recognition voluntarily.

Hirshland also said in the letter a review panel will be identified, a hearing will be held, a report will be issued and a recommendation will be made. Then the USOC board will vote to continue to recognize USAG, or to revoke that status.

READ MORE: Ex-Michigan gymnastics coach accused of lying to investigator linked to Larry Nassar case

Seeking a revocation does not guarantee a particular outcome.

Hirshland did not say how long the process would take and that the USOC would make every effort to proceed quickly. She also called this moment the beginning of an important process for gymnastics in the United States.

“The path is not crystal clear, but our motives are,” Hirshland wrote.

“So, we move forward, committed to ensuring the type of organization each gymnast and the coaches, trainers and club owners who support them, deserves.”

The announcement comes a day after the conclusion of the world gymnastics championships in Doha where Biles became the first female gymnast in 30 years to claim a medal in all six events at a major competition, including a record fourth all-around title for a woman. Her haul included four golds, one silver and a bronze.

© 2018 Thomson Reuters

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