USOC Takes Steps to Strip USAG of Governing Body Status has partnered with LexisNexis to bring you this content.

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Orange County Register (California)


The U.S. Olympic Committee has initiated steps to strip USA Gymnastics of its national governing body status, having run out of patience with the Indianapolis-based organization's inability to establish effective leadership and eradicate a culture of abuse that enabled Larry Nassar's decadeslong sexual abuse of Olympians and hundreds of other young gymnasts.

The move comes less than two years before the 2020 Olympic Games and against the backdrop of a series of missteps by USA Gymnastics executives, legal challenges on a number of fronts against the USOC, USA Gymnastics and several of its former top officials and coaches, and pressure from Congress for the American sport to be governed by a more athlete-centric organization.

"Today the United States Olympic Committee has filed a complaint initiating a Section 8 proceeding against USA Gymnastics, seeking to revoke USAG's recognition as a member National Governing Body of the USOC," the USOC said in a statement. "This is a situation in which there are no per

fect solutions. Seeking to revoke recognition is not a conclusion that we have come to easily. 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."

USA Gymnastics was looking for its fourth chief executive since March 2017 when Steve Penny resigned under pressure from the USOC. The USA Gymnastics board of directors now shifts its focus to responding to the USOC's filing.

"USA Gymnastics is carefully reviewing the contents of this letter and is evaluating the best path forward for our athletes, professional members, the organization and staff," the board said in a statement.

"We want you to know, we will continue to serve the thousands of young athletes, coaches, club owners, judges and administrators who make up our organization. Our commitment will always be to ensure the health and safety of our members while they pursue their love of the sport. We know this continues to be a difficult time for our organization, and we are so appreciative of all that you do to support our gymnastics community."

Penny was arrested last month after a Walker County, Texas, grand jury indicted him on felony evidence tampering charges. The indictment alleges that Penny was involved in the removal and destruction of medical records from the Karolyi Ranch in central Texas.

Kerry Perry, Penny's replacement, was forced out again under pressure from the USOC in September after nine scandal-plagued months on the job.

Perry's removal came just four days after USA Gymnastics asked veteran coach Mary Lee Tracy to resign as the organization's elite development coordinator after just three days on the job.

Tracy's forced resignation came after USA Gymnastics officials said she improperly contacted Olympic champion Aly Raisman, who is suing the organization. Raisman, who was sexually abused by Nassar, had criticized Tracy's appointment because of Tracy's support of Nassar when allegations of his sexual misconduct first began to surface.

Perry was replaced by former Congresswoman Mary Bono, who resigned after just four days on the job. Bono has generated more than $1.5 million in lobbying fees over the past three years for a firm that played an initial role in USA Gymnastics' alleged cover-up of the Nassar scandal. She also was widely criticized for a tweet criticizing Nike's advertising campaign featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Critics of the USOC, however, questioned the organization's motivation in moving against USA Gymnastics.

"It's long overdue," said John Manly, an attorney for dozens of survivors of Nassar's abuse, referring to the USOC move. "This was done as much to protect the USOC as it was [because of concerns with the] USAG. The USOC is just as culpable. They knew what Larry Nassar did, what USA Gymnastics did. That they're trying to get credit for this is actually nauseating."

Several longtime observers also raised the possibility of USA Gymnastics filing for bankruptcy as the organization's financial future becomes increasingly uncertain in the wake of dozens of lawsuits and resistance from insurance carriers.

The USOC filing against USA Gymnastics follows a series of recent meetings between USOC executives and key members of Congress. It also comes as the U.S. Department of Justice and law enforcement agencies in Texas, Indiana and Colorado pursue several investigative tracks into the alleged cover-up of Nassar's sexual abuse, according to a persons familiar with the investigations.

In addition to the Justice Department, the Texas Rangers and Walker County, Texas, and Indiana law enforcement agencies as well as the El Paso County, Colorado, District Attorney's Office are also investigating what role, if any, other USA Gymnastics and U.S. Olympic Committee officials and others had in covering up Nassar's abuse.

Under USOC bylaws, a review panel will be formed. The panel will conduct hearings and then issue a report and a recommendation of action to the USOC board of directors. The board will then vote to recognize USA Gymnastics or revoke its NGB status.

In an open letter to the American gymnastics community Monday, USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland joined those critics.

"You began your journey in the sport of gymnastics for dozens of different reasons, but all of them trace back to gymnastics, and sport, being a positive influence in your life," Hirshland wrote. "It is supposed to be fun, to challenge you, and to teach you lessons about dedication, teamwork, excellence and overcoming adversity. And while each of you has overcome adversity in different ways, some facing unimaginably terrible situations, everyone now faces the difficult reality of belonging to a national organization that continues to struggle to change its culture, to rebuild its leadership and to effectively serve its membership.

"You deserve better."

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November 6, 2018


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