Couple Contends USA Gymnastics Discipline Lacking has partnered with LexisNexis to bring you this content.

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A former men's gymnastics coach at the Olympic Training Center was accused of groping the wife of a longtime national team member more than two years ago, and the gymnast and his wife said this week they are unhappy with how USA Gymnastics handled their complaint.

Vitaly Marinitch was initially disciplined by USA Gymnastics after the accusation was made in August 2014. He was asked to resign two years later, in September 2016.

In an interview on the GymCastic podcast released Wednesday, the Legendres said they were at the hotel bar with other gymnasts and coaches after conclusion of the national championships in Pittsburgh when Marinitch allegedly twice put his hand down the back of Alaina Legendre's pants, giving "a good grope of my butt," she said.

Steven Legendre said he confronted Marinitch, prompting hotel security to intervene. The Legendres said they didn't want to file a police report, but Legendre said he was asked about the incident the next day by the two athlete representatives for the men's program. Legendre said he then received a call from Steve Penny, president and chief executive officer of USA Gymnastics.

USA Gymnastics told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday that the accusations were discussed by the chairman of its board of directors, members of the men's program committee and athlete representatives.

"I can't stand by and continue to see them purposely hide stuff and know that it's more than likely going to keep happening, whether it be with Vitaly or it be another coach or whoever else they might be hiding," Alaina Legendre said on the podcast.

In a statement to USA TODAY Sports, USA Gymnastics said, "Steven and Alaina are important members of the USA Gymnastics family, and we regret that they do not feel USA Gymnastics properly supported them with the announcement of Mr. Marinitch's resignation. The incident was one of several factors involved in the decision to end his employment. We are looking into the other issues mentioned in Steven's and Alaina's interview."

Steven Legendre did not return a voice mail from USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday. Marinitch did not respond to an email from USA TODAY Sports.

The Legendres' allegations come as USA Gymnastics is mired in a sexual abuse scandal.

An investigation published in August by The Indianapolis Star, which is part of the USA TODAY Network, found numerous cases in which USA Gymnastics had been informed of possible sexual abuse by youth coaches that the organization failed to report to authorities.

Several gymnasts said The Star's coverage emboldened them to bring sexual abuse allegations against Larry Nassar, the former longtime team doctor for the women's national team. Since then, more than 80 women have stepped forward, and Nassar, an osteopathic physician, remains under criminal investigation by at least three law enforcement agencies. Nassar, who worked for decades at Michigan State University, also faces at least four civil lawsuits related to the alleged abuse.

On Wednesday, prosecutors in Michigan added 22 charges of sexual abuse to the three Nassar already faced. Nassar, 53, also faces federal child pornography charges and is in federal custody in Michigan. He has denied any wrongdoing.

USA Gymnastics said it received a complaint about Nassar in June 2015, and it reported it to the FBI five weeks later after it had conducted its own investigation.

USA Gymnastics has been named in at least four lawsuits alleging it knew or should have known about Nassar's abuse and ignored or concealed it. The organization has strongly denied this and emphasized that it first reported Nassar to authorities.

Steven Legendre is currently an assistant coach at the University of Oklahoma, his alma mater. He competed in four world championships, winning a silver medal on vault in 2013 and helping the U.S. men to bronze in 2011. He was also an alternate for the 2012 Olympics.

Alaina Legendre is a former trampoline gymnast with six medals at U.S. championships.

Discipline of Marinitch was not made public at the time. In response to questions from USA TODAY Sports, USA Gymnastics confirmed the Legendres' account that Marinitch apologized to the national team and was removed as the coach of the 2014 world championship team.

USA Gymnastics said it made Marinitch ineligible to serve as head coach of a world or Olympic team and he was counseled on ethical conduct.

"Mr. Marinitch was not fired because this group was comfortable with the sanctions imposed, with the stipulation that he would be fired if there was another incident," USA Gymnastics said.

The organization said it was not aware of "misconduct issues" prior to the 2014 incident or after.

After Penny met with the Legendres in 2014, Steve Legendre said he spoke with Penny on several occasions in 2016. Legendre said he didn't want to be part of USA Gymnastics' discipline of Marinitch.

But the couple was concerned when USA Gymnastics characterized Marinitch's departure in September as a resignation. They were also concerned that saying Marinitch had resigned could cast doubt about Alaina Legendre's account of what happened.

"It should have probably been handled with a bit of a more stern punishment," Steven Legendre said he told Penny.

"Either way, they don't want to own up to the fact of what he did or they don't want to say what he did is even part of the reason he was fired and if that's not a part of the reason he was fired, then that's pretty pathetic on their side," Alaina Legendre said in the GymCastic interview.

In September, USA Gymnastics said Marinitch resigned to pursue other opportunities. On Wednesday, USA Gymnastics said that the incident was a factor in its decision.

"In September 2016, it was made clear to Mr. Marinitch that his employment was going to end, and he was offered the opportunity to resign, which he did," the organization said. "The decision to make a change included several factors, including his behavior in Pittsburgh and the review of overall performance."

The couple said on the podcast that they found it concerning that USA Gymnastics sought Steven Legendre's input on its discipline of Marinitch. He was vying for a spot on the U.S. team, and Legendre was concerned about affecting his teammates.

About nine of the U.S. gymnasts lived and trained at the OTC, where Marinitch was their personal coach. Three of those gymnasts made the Olympic team, and any insistence from Legendre that Marinitch be removed before Rio would have harmed his teammates.

"Any part that he's ever had with USAG since, I find it to be crazy," Alaina Legendre told GymCastic.

"Steven was asked multiple times what he thinks should happen to him, and we have our own opinions, but that's not Steven's place. You're the big organization here. You should know how something like this needs to be handled. You should not even ask the athlete and try to put that on them."

After he left the men's program, Marinitch continued to coach with the Colorado Training Center, a youth gymnastics program for boys that also trains at the OTC.

In response to questions, USA Gymnastics said his involvement in that program "was not top of mind" when he resigned and that it understands Marinitch is no longer associated with the program as of Tuesday.

February 23, 2017


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