Opinion: USOC Should Fire Everyone at USA Gymnastics

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Evansville Courier & Press (Indiana)


INDIANAPOLIS — Fire everybody. If you were working for USA Gymnastics as of Monday afternoon, sorry, no need to report to work. Because you're fired. All of you.

In a perfect world, that's how this decertification of USA Gymnastics would go. Alas, the world is not perfect, not close to perfect, and in the case of that rotten sinkhole at 132 E. Washington St. in Indianapolis, it's terribly flawed by adults who let down kids and then kept doing it and doing it and doing it until more than 500 girls were saying they'd been abused by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar — and the United States Olympic Committee on Monday was announcing something it should have announced months ago: USA Gymnastics is no longer the national governing body of U.S. gymnastics.

Which is a step, but not the final step. No, there is a next step, and it looks like this: The USOC sending bureaucrats and human resources officials and maybe even sheriff's deputies to guide every single employee out of the USA Gymnastics' offices at 132 E. Washington St. Here's a box. Pack it up and get the hell out.

Harsh? Oh absolutely what I'm saying is harsh, maybe even too harsh, but enough's enough. The only people with any guts or integrity in this entire process have been the gymnasts themselves, young and abused and just ferocious. The adults at USA Gymnastics, starting with the CEO who was indicted on charges of tampering with evidence, didn't do enough to stop this from happening even as reports of sexual abuse in gyms all over the country mounted and records were kept and complaints logged and still another girl and another and another were sent into an office with Larry Nassar, who closed the door and did as he pleased.

Sometimes, the only answer is cleaning house. What I'm suggesting, some people would say, is throwing out the baby with the bathwater. And here is where I'd say that is incorrect. I'm not suggesting anything.

Throw out the bathwater, and every single USA Gymnastics employee with it. Look, haven't we spent enough time wondering about who knew what, and when did they know it? Former CEO Steve Penny was arrested Oct. 17 on charges of ordering the removal of evidence from the Karolyi Ranch in Texas, where Nassar abused many of his victims.

USA Gymnastics' director of sports medicine services for its gymnastics, Debbie Van Horn, was indicted in June on charges of second-degree sexual assault of a child; she was occasionally in the room with Nassar when he was abusing gymnasts, and for whatever reason — ignorance? — she didn't stop it.

Additionally, insanely, USA Gymnastics actually hired as interim CEO a member of the law firm who provided "false excuses," IndyStar reported in May, for Nassar's absence at major gymnastics events in 2015. The law firm of Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting, which employed Mary Bono, lied about Nassar's absence because that beat the alternative: telling the truth, that USA Gymnastics' superstar doctor was under investigation for molesting gymnasts in his care.

In a statement to IndyStar in October, the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors defended the selection of Bono as interim CEO on the grounds that she really didn't have much to do with the firm's handling of USA Gymnastics. It's not like she was the counsel of record, the statement said, as if that made her hiring palatable. The statement ended before the board could insist that Mary Bono was so out of the loop, she couldn't even spell the word "gymnastics."

Does the arrest of Penny, the indictment of Van Horn and the departure of Bono imply that every single person employed by USA Gymnastics has done something wrong? No, not at all. All of the people who have been charged deny wrongdoing. Like I said, throwing everybody out of the offices at 132 E. Washington would be harsh, overly so in some cases, but the only way to proceed after so many things went so horribly wrong for so terribly long within the organization. The only way to take USA Gymnastics seriously, ever again, is with a complete reboot.

Start by moving the USA Gymnastics offices out of 132 E. Washington St. Prime real estate it may be, there on the cusp of Monument Circle, but it's a haunted house now. Get out, have everyone employed there leave with their belongings in a box and their resumes updated, and then change the name of the whole organization. Because "USA Gymnastics" is an obscenity.

Find IndyStar columnist Gregg Doyel on Twitter: @GreggDoyelStar or at facebook.com/gregg.doyel.

Gregg Doyel, Columnist, Indianapolis Star

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November 7, 2018


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