US & World

USOC tells USA Gymnastics' board to resign within 6 days

The entire USA Gymnastics board will resign, the group says. Rachael Denhollander, center, listens as Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor, was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexual abuse over decades of his involvement with the program.
The entire USA Gymnastics board will resign, the group says. Rachael Denhollander, center, listens as Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor, was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexual abuse over decades of his involvement with the program.
Brendan McDermid/Reuters

USA Gymnastics' board must resign, the U.S. Olympic Committee says — or it will lose its certification as a national governing body. The deadline is Jan. 31 — one week from the day disgraced team doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for abusing more than 150 gymnasts.

In response, USA Gymnastics said it "completely embraces the requirements" set by the USOC late Thursday. The entire board's resignation is the top item on a list of mandatory changes that the USOC sent to USA Gymnastics on Thursday.

Informing USA Gymnastics of the required resignations, USOC CEO Scott Blackmun cited the "shocking and tragic stories surrounding Larry Nassar's years-long abuse of vulnerable athletes." In the letter he sent to the gymnastics organization, he added, "We must take further action to ensure that it cannot happen again."

Both the USOC and USA Gymnastics have faced harsh criticism amid revelations of systematic abuse that Nassar carried out, with victims and others saying the two organizations didn't do enough to support athletes and prevent abuse.

Some of the most powerful criticism has come from decorated gymnast Aly Raisman, who delivered an impact statement at Nassar's sentencing hearing.

"The Indy Star story broke on August 4, 2016, after survivors courageously came forward sharing stories of sexual abuse and alleging organizational mishandling," Raisman said via Twitter earlier this week. "The next day, the USOC said they wouldn't investigate (and even praised USAG's work in the area of sexual abuse.)"

Raisman also called for accountability. Discussing the army of survivors who spoke out against Nassar in court, she said, "Many of them, myself included, claim the USOC is also at fault. Was the USOC there to "focus on supporting the brave survivors?" No. Did they issue any statement then? Crickets ..."

The new letter from Blackmn and the USOC details changes that he had outlined in an open letter to all U.S. athletes on the day Nassar was sentenced. In that letter, Blackmun had said that the women and girls' testimony had "framed the tragedy through the eyes of the victims and survivors, and was worse than our own worst fears."

"It was powerful because of the strength of the victims, survivors and parents, who so eloquently and forcefully told their stories and so rightfully demanded justice," Blackmun wrote. "The USOC should have been there to hear it in person, and I am deeply sorry that did not happen."

Three USA Gymnastics board members resigned at the start of this week: chairman Paul Parilla, vice chairman Jay Binder and treasurer Bitsy Kelley. The organization's president and CEO, Kerry Perry, has been in that job since December. She replaced Steve Penny, who resigned last March.

The USOC said that USA Gymnastics should have an interim board in place by the end of February. It's also requiring all staff and board members to undergo SafeSport training — a program that fosters safe and respectful environments for athletes and teams and that has been tapped by the USOC to respond to sexual abuse cases. The gymnastics body will also have to keep working to reshape itself and change its culture, the USOC said.

In demanding the board's mass resignation, Blackmun said he wasn't accusing individual people at USA Gymnastics of wrongdoing — but that the entire board needed to leave as part of wholesale changes.

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