USA Gymnastics Suspends Coach for Emotional Abuse

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Former USA Gymnastics coach Maggie Haney has been suspended for eight years over allegations of inflicting emotional abuse on young athletes.

The ruling comes after two months of hearings, in which gold medalist Laurie Hernandez testified against her coach and world champion Riley McCusker wrote a letter to the hearing panel criticizing Haney.

Hernandez prompted the inquiry into Haney’s conduct when she filed a complaint against Haney four years ago.

The panel found Haney failed “to provide a safe, positive and healthy environment with a culture of trust and empowerment,” according to a ruling document provided to the Southern California News Group, which was reported on by The Orange County Register.

Haney has been stripped of her coaching privileges, as well as her USA Gymnastics membership for eight years. If he chooses to apply for reinstatement after that time, she would be placed on probation for two years.

“USA Gymnastics can confirm that the Safe Sport Hearing related to Maggie Haney has concluded,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement to SCNG. “The independent hearing panel – comprised of three members of the gymnastics community, including an attorney, a club owner, and a former national team athlete – found that Ms. Haney violated the USA Gymnastics Code of Ethical Conduct, Safe Sport Policy, and other policies. As a result, the hearing panel determined that Ms. Haney is suspended from membership, and any coaching of USA Gymnastics athletes or in member clubs, for a period of eight years, effective immediately, followed by a two year probationary period. After the suspension concludes, Ms. Haney may reapply for membership after submitting proof of completing certain specified Safe Sport courses.”

Julie Saunders, the attorney who represented Hernandez, remained critical of USA Gymnastics even after the ruling.

“USA Gymnastics with this decision has made a micro step, nothing more. Look at Simone Biles, they still won’t open the files,” Saunders said. “Am I celebrating? I would have liked this case to have been handled with the other (sexual, physical and emotional) abuse cases” before USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Center for Safe Sport “so it’s a micro step in the right direction.”

As part of the inquiry conducted by USAG, Haney was found to have screamed, sworn at, threatened, bullied, and harassed gymnasts on a regular basis. Haney has also told injured gymnasts to remove boot casts and other protective devices to continue training and competing, according to USA Gymnastics documents and interviews.

According to The Orange County Register, under the U.S. Center for SafeSport code it is a “violation for a Participant to engage in emotional and/or physical misconduct, when that misconduct occurs within a context that is reasonably related to sport, which includes, without limitation: 1. Emotional Misconduct, 2. Physical Misconduct, 3. Bullying Behaviors, 4. Hazing, 5. Harassment.” 

Emotional abuse, according to the code, includes “(a) Verbal Acts, (b) Physical Acts, (c) Acts that Deny Attention or Support, (d) Criminal Conduct, and/or (e) Stalking. Emotional Misconduct is determined by the objective behaviors,”

Verbal acts are defined as “Repeatedly and excessively verbally assaulting or attacking someone personally in a manner that serves no productive training or motivational purpose.”

The verbal and emotional abuse and the bullying left gymnasts despondent, depressed, even suicidal, parents said. At least two gymnasts told their parents they hated themselves

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