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Officials within the U.S. Olympic Committee say USA Gymnastics President and CEO Steve Penny must resign so the national governing body can move forward in the midst of a sexual abuse scandal, two U.S. Olympic officials told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday.
The Olympic officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.
More than 360 cases in which gymnasts accused coaches of sexual transgressions over 20 years have been reported by The Indianapolis Star, which is part of the USA TODAY Network. More than 80 gymnasts have come forward with sexual abuse allegations against Larry Nassar, the national gymnastics team physician from 1996 to 2015.
Nassar was charged in November with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a person younger than 13 by the Michigan attorney general. Last month, he was arraigned in Ingham County (Mich.) on 22 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and 14 lesser-included alternative charges of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. Those charges stem from his 20-year tenure at Michigan State University, which also is being sued by at least 40 women or girls. Nassar also was indicted in December on two federal charges related to child pornography.
The USOC cannot fire Penny -- only the board of USA Gymnastics can do that -- but it holds great sway as the organization in charge of oversight and governance of all national governing bodies, including USA Gymnastics. In that role, it can put significant pressure on Penny to leave for the good of the organization.
The U.S. Olympic officials said they think Penny must leave USA Gymnastics for the organization to have a fresh start. Among the concerns, the Olympic officials cited Penny's failure to immediately report Nassar after allegations of sexual abuse by the doctor were reported to USA Gymnastics in June 2015.
USA Gymnastics spent five weeks conducting an investigation before reporting Nassar to the FBI and removing him from his position.
The FBI launched an investigation into Nassar nine months later, The Wall Street Journal reported last month.
USA Gymnastics has previously said it reported claims of abuse to law enforcement and has emphasized its commitment to policies to prevent abuse and encourage the reporting of allegations.
Wednesday, it released a statement to USA TODAY Sports attributed to Mary Lou Retton, 1984 Olympic gold medalist and past USA Gymnastics board member, and USA Gymnastics board of directors officers Paul Parilla, chairman; Jay Binder, vice chairman/secretary; and Bitsy Kelley, treasurer:
"Steve Penny is among the strongest advocates for our athletes and has reported suspected instances of abuse to law enforcement himself. He takes their safety seriously, and over the course of his tenure as CEO, has strengthened USA Gymnastics policies and programs to further protect the health and well-being of athletes. Steve was instrumental in commissioning the most comprehensive, thorough and independent evaluation of our bylaws, policies, procedures and practices related to handling sexual misconduct matters. We believe the findings of Ms. (Deborah) Daniels' review and the opening of the U.S. Center for Safe Sport will allow us to emerge even stronger."
In an op-ed piece in December, Penny and Parilla said USA Gymnastics played "an active role in the creation of the recently-opened U.S. Center for Safe Sport."
Penny also initiated an independent investigation of USA Gymnastics policies by former federal prosecutor Daniels that is on-going.
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