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Opinion: Ex-USA Gymnastics CEO's Testimony Shameful

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USA TODAY

 

WASHINGTON — After nearly two years of public horror, doubt and questions in the ongoing sex abuse scandals enveloping USA Gymnastics and other Olympic sports, Tuesday seemed to be as good a time as any to finally expect some answers.

Then former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny, the man in charge during what has become the worst episode in U.S. Olympic history, invoked his Fifth Amendment right to avoid questions from two U.S. senators six times within five minutes before slowly and silently walking out of a Senate subcommittee hearing and heading for the exits.

"Shame!" yelled Amy Moran Compton, a former gymnast in the audience who herself was a victim of sex abuse from her coach Doug Bogar in the 1970s and 1980s in Southern California.

Compton's strong, sure voice, uttering that one simple word, stopped subcommittee chairman Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., in his tracks, mid-sentence. He fell silent for several seconds. Despite the disruption in his hearing room, he did not reprimand Compton.

Reprimand? He, and the 200 others assembled in the audience, some of them victims of former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor Larry Nassar, should have applauded.

Finally, in the third congressional hearing in as many months on the Olympic sex abuse scandals in gymnastics, swimming, figure skating, taekwondo and other sports, there was a moment of raw emotion, a moment of human clarity, a moment in which time stood still.

Shame, indeed.

Walking with a pronounced limp, Penny didn't flinch as Compton shouted that single word after he moved past her in the crowd. Soon, he was out the door and gone, and with him, any sliver of knowledge that might have come had he told the hearing, and the many assembled victims, exactly what he knew when, and why he didn't act sooner to help the hundreds of victims of Nassar.

"I looked him in the eyes," said Compton, who said she was in constant contact with Penny about sex abuse in the sport 10 years ago, including posting warnings about it on Facebook.

"I really did want to bear witness to whether he was going to be truthful or not," she said. "Almost 10 years ago, Steve Penny looked me in the eye and said he would do the right thing, and he did not. We've been working with and against Steve Penny for 10 years, well before Larry Nassar."

Then she watched him walk out of the hearing, excused by Moran, leaving all those questions unanswered.

"That was so cowardly," Compton said. "That's what he shows about the protection of children. I believe as a human being that was the wrong thing to do. He could have been part of the solution. It just needs to be open. The system is broken and has been broken for many, many years. It's just shameful."

This was his first public appearance since he resigned under U.S. Olympic Committee pressure in March 2017. Unfortunately, the questions for him are still hanging in the air, unanswered.

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June 6, 2018
 
 
 

 

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