All USA Gymnastics Board Members Are Being Ordered To Step Down In Wake Of Sexual Abuse Trial
The U.S. Olympic Committee has asked all the directors on the USA Gymnastics board to resign by Wednesday, Feb. 1, according to a letter obtained by CNN. Three top executives have already resigned from USA Gymnastics' board of directors: Chairman Paul Parilla, Vice Chairman Jay Binder, and Treasurer Bitsy Kelley.
The remaining 18 board members have to step down and USA Gymnastics must put an interim board in place by Feb. 28. Otherwise, USA Gymnastics will lose its status as a sports governing body, warned Scott Blackmun, CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
News of Blackmun's request comes two days after a judge sentenced former national team doctor Larry Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison for his prolific history of sex abuse against children, teenagers, and women. The testimonies of more than 150 women were read at Nassar's sentencing hearing where Olympic gold medal gymnasts Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber confronted Nassar in person in court.
"Please understand that the circumstances that led to this crisis demand our attention and intervention," Blackmun wrote. "These steps are intended to help USAG create a culture that protects and supports its athletes in the way I know we all want to do."
In his letter, Blackmun did not directly accuse USA Gymnastics of covering up the Nassar scandal but called for an investigation into the governing body's complicity. "We do not base these requirements on any knowledge that any individual USAG staff or board members had a role in fostering or obscuring Nassar's actions," Blackmun wrote. "Our position comes from a clear sense that USAG culture needs fundamental rebuilding."
He went on to list a series of measures USA Gymnastics must take, along with the resignations. The sports governing body "must cooperate with an independent investigation" looking into whether anyone knew or should have known of abuse allegations against Nassar and did not report them. The new board of directors must also discuss implementing changes based on a former prosecutor's report that details how USA Gymnastics failed to combat abuse.
In addition, all staff and board members must complete within three months a training on promoting respect and preventing abuse, offered by the U.S. Center for Safe Sport. Members must also complete a comprehensive ethics training within six months.
In response to the U.S. Olympic Committee letter, USA Gymnastics released the following statement:
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. 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 organization, rather than decertification. 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. 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.
In the wake of the Nassar scandal, other organizations and individuals have seen fallout. Karolyi Ranch outside Huntsville, Texas, will no longer serve as the training center for Team USA gymnasts. A number of gymnasts, including Olympic gold medal gymnast Simone Biles, said Nassar abused them there.
The president of Michigan State University, Lou Anna Simon, resigned hours after Nassar's sentencing. Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of sexual assault, accused university officials of silencing victims despite decades of firsthand testimony of the sexual abuse. Dozens of women have sued the school and now former employees, but Simon denied any cover-up by the university.