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Sunday 17 June 2018

USA Gymnastics board of directors to resign under pressure over Nassar scandal

The former USA Gymnastics sports doctor has been sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison.

Doctor Sexual Assault
Doctor Sexual Assault

By Charlotte Birch

The remaining members of the USA Gymnastics board of directors will resign under pressure from the United States Olympic Committee in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.

It comes after the USOC threatened to decertify the organisation if it did not take more strident steps toward change amid the fallout from the scandal surrounding the former team doctor.

The executive board, including chairman Paul Parilla, resigned on Monday.

USA Gymnastics announced on Friday that the remaining 18 board members, who are unpaid volunteers representing various threads of the sport across the country, will leave their positions.

The announcement came two days after an open letter from USOC chief operating officer Scott Blackmun called for a “full turnover of leadership”.

USA Gymnastics said in a statement on Friday it will comply with the USOC’s wishes.

“USA Gymnastics supports the United States Olympic Committee’s letter and accepts the absolute need of the Olympic family to promote a safe environment for all of our athletes,” the organisation wrote in a statement.

“We agree with the USOC’s statement that the interests of our athletes and clubs, and their sport, may be better served by moving forward with meaningful change within our organisation, rather than decertification.”

Nassar, who spent more than 20 years with the organisation before leaving in 2015, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison on Wednesday for molesting seven women.

Part of the sentencing process included more than 100 victim impact statements read into the record, several of them high-profile Olympians such as six-time medallist Aly Raisman, 2011 world champion and 2012 Olympic gold medallist Jordyn Wieber and two-time Olympic medallist McKayla Maroney.

USA Gymnastics did force out former president Steve Penny last spring and hired Kerry Perry in November as his replacement.

The rest of the power structure, however, remained intact.

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Doctor Sexual Assault

Rachael Denhollander, the first person to come forward as Nassar victim in the fall of 2016, asked the board’s executive officers to resign last August.

Ms Raisman talked repeatedly about the need for a complete organisational overhaul after outlining the abuse Nassar subjected her to in her book released in November.

Olympic champion Simone Biles came forward as a Nassar victim on January 15 and wondered why she had to continue to train at the Karolyi Ranch in Texas, a place where she said Nassar abused her earlier in her career.

USA Gymnastics announced shortly after Ms Biles’s critique it was ending its long relationship with the Karolyi Ranch. The board’s executive officers stepped down on Monday and the rest of the group will now follow suit.

“USA Gymnastics supports an independent investigation that may shine light on how abuse of the proportion described so courageously by the survivors of Larry Nassar could have gone undetected for so long and embraces any necessary and appropriate changes,” the organisation wrote.

“USA Gymnastics and the USOC have the same goal — making the sport of gymnastics, and others, as safe as possible for athletes to follow their dreams in a safe, positive and empowered environment.”

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