(ATR) The United States Olympic Committee began the process to revoke the recognition of USA Gymnastics as the sport’s National Governing Body.
USOC Chief Executive Sarah Hirshland said in a statement a Section 8 proceeding was filed today against the NGB. She said that the decision was “not a conclusion that [the USOC] have come to easily,” and that short-term solutions for gymnasts were still being worked out.
“This is a situation in which there are no perfect solutions,” Hirshland said. “In the short-term, we have to work to ensure that USAG gymnasts have the support necessary to excel on and off the field of play. We are building plans to do just that.
“In the long-term, it will be the critically important responsibility of the recognized Gymnastics NGB, whether the existing organization or a new one, to lead gymnastics in the United States and build on the supportive community of athletes and clubs that can carry the sport forward for decades to come. We are prepared to identify and help build such an organization.”
Both the men’s and women’s national gymnastics teams had wrapped up competing at the Artistic World Championships in Doha, days earlier. There, the women’s team qualified for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics by winning the team competition.
Former USA Gymnastics CEO Kerry Perry testifying before U.S. Congress (House Committee on Energy and Commerce)
USA Gymnastics is in search of its third interim chief executive this year following the resignations of Kerry Perry and Mary Bono. Perry was appointed by the previous USA Gymnastics board of directors, after the resignation of past President Steve Penny.
A new board of directors was seated this year and appointed Bono after the USOC pressured Perry to resign. Bono lasted just a week on the job, after top gymnasts spoke out against her appointment.
The USA Gymnastics board of directors said that it is currently reviewing the letter sent by the USOC notifying the NGB of the proceedings. The board said it “has done everything it could” in four months to fix “an organization in crisis with significant challenges that were years in the making”.
“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,” the board of directors said. “Substantial work remains — in particular, working with the plaintiffs and USA Gymnastics’ insurers to resolve the ongoing litigation as quickly as possible. We will continue to prioritize our athletes’ health and safety and focus on acting in the best interests of the greater gymnastics community.”
USA Gymnastics is still the subject of multiple lawsuits from gymnasts that allege the organization covered up knowledge of abuse by former national team doctor Larry Nassar.
Nassar is currently serving multiple life sentences for the possession of child pornography and child abuse during his time as a doctor at Michigan State University and with USA Gymnastics. He was named by multiple high-profile U.S. Olympians as having abused gymnasts at the London 2012 Olympics.
Former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny testifying before U.S, Senate (YouTube/Sen. Jerry Moran)
Penny was arrested last month while on vacation in Tennessee by U.S. federal marshals after being indicted in Texas on tampering charges. Prosecutors said that Penny ordered the removal of documents related to Nassar from the Karolyi Ranch, which was used as a U.S. national team training site. Charges said that Penny knew of ongoing investigations into USA Gymnastics when he ordered the removal of documents.
Hirshland said in an open letter to the gymnastics community that the USOC took action now because the challenges USA Gymnastics faced were “simply more than it is capable of overcoming in its current form”.
The process involving USA Gymnastics will now go to a review panel, which will make a recommendation, after a hearing, as to whether to revoke the organization as an NGB. The USOC Board of Directors will then vote on whether to revoke the organization based on the recommendation.
Hirshland said that the USOC views gymnastics as a “bedrock for the Olympic community in the United States,” and that it will continue to encourage participation and support for the national team.
“And, over time, gymnastics clubs around the country may become members of a new organization that lives up to the expectations of the athletes and those that support them, their parents included,” Hirshland said. “This would take time and a lot of hard work from many of us, and many of you. I know that collectively, we are up to the task should that assignment be given at the outcome of this process.”
Written by Aaron Bauer
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