Friday 21 September 2018

Board members quit USA Gymnastics as more victims address Nassar sentencing

The resignations add to months of turmoil after critics said the organisation failed to protect gymnasts from abusive coaches.

Larry Nassar
Larry Nassar

By David Eggert and Mike Householder

Three key leaders at USA Gymnastics have resigned as more women and girls told a judge they were sexually assaulted by a sports doctor who spent years with Olympic gymnasts and other female athletes.

The resignations of chairman Paul Parilla, vice chairman Jay Binder and treasurer Bitsy Kelley were announced in Indianapolis while a judge in Lansing, Michigan, heard a fifth day of statements from women and girls who said they were molested by Larry Nassar.

“We support their decisions to resign at this time,” said Kerry Perry, president and chief executive of USA Gymnastics, the national governing body for the sport.

“We believe this step will allow us to more effectively move forward in implementing change within our organisation.”

The board positions are volunteer and unpaid, but the resignations add to the months of turmoil.

Steve Penny quit as president last March after critics said USA Gymnastics failed to protect gymnasts from abusive coaches and Nassar.

The group last week said it was ending its long relationship with the Karolyi Ranch, the home in Huntsville, Texas, of former national team co-ordinator Martha Karolyi and her husband Bela.

Some Olympians said they were assaulted there by Nassar.

In Michigan, Nassar’s sentencing hearing continued on Monday, raising the number of girls and women who have spoken to nearly 100 since last week.

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Rosemarie Aquilina

“I want to you know that your face and the face of all of the sister survivor warriors — the whole army of you — I’ve heard your words,” Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said after a woman spoke in her courtroom.

“Your sister survivors and you are going through incomprehensible lengths, emotions and soul-searching to put your words together, to publicly stop (the) defendant, to publicly stop predators, to make people listen.”

Nassar, 54, has admitted molesting athletes during medical treatment when he was employed by Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics.

He has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison for child pornography crimes.

Under a plea deal, he faces a minimum prison sentence of 25 to 40 years in the molestation case. The maximum term could be much higher.

“Larry, how many of us are there? Do you even know?” asked Clasina Syrboby, as she fought back tears while speaking for more than 20 minutes.

“You preyed on me, on us. You saw a way to take advantage of your position — the almighty and trusted gymnastics doctor. Shame on you Larry. Shame on you.”

She and other victims also continued their criticism of Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committee for not doing enough to stop Nassar when initial complaints were made.

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