USA Gymnastics exec leadership resigns

Pressure on rest of the board to step down for ignoring athletes' complaints about Nassar

CHICAGO • Calls for the remaining 18 USA Gymnastics board members to step down intensified after three resigned on Monday amid demands for a shake-up at the sport's national governing body.

The resignations came during the fifth day of stinging testimony by some of the sport's biggest stars at an extended pre-sentencing hearing for the US team doctor, Larry Nassar, who pleaded guilty in November to 10 counts of molesting female gymnasts.

Many of the dozens of athletes and former athletes who testified said they felt angry at and betrayed by USA Gymnastics for ignoring their complaints, accusing it of seeking to suppress their accounts in a bid to avoid bad publicity.

The board announced the resignations of chairman Paul Parilla, vice-chairman Jay Binder and treasurer Bitsy Kelley, who comprise the body's executive leadership team.

No replacements were named and a spokesman said the departing trio did not have any comment.

"We believe this step will allow us to more effectively move forward in implementing change within our organisation," USA Gymnastics chief executive Kerry Perry said in a statement. She took over on Dec 1 the position vacated by Steve Penny who resigned last March.

But John Manly, a lawyer who represents 2012 Olympic gold medallist McKayla Maroney and some of the other victims, said that the change was not sweeping enough and called on the body to change its position that it had no duty to warn athletes about Nassar.

"Until that happens, this move is simply a public relations ploy to save a sinking ship," he said in a statement.

CULTURE OF DENIAL

New board leadership is necessary because the current leaders have been focused on establishing that they did nothing wrong.

SCOTT BLACKMUN, US Olympic Committee chief executive, on why USA Gymnastics has to change its entire leadership team.

He called on the other 18 board members to step down, saying they were also aware of the federation's mishandling of the Nassar allegations.

He called on Congress to investigate the federation, the US Olympic Committee (Usoc) and Michigan State University, where Nassar, 54, worked for years as a physician.

The Usoc's chief executive Scott Blackmun said his organisation has pressed USA Gymnastics to change its culture and leadership.

"New board leadership is necessary because the current leaders have been focused on establishing that they did nothing wrong," he said on Twitter.

USA Gymnastics also came under attack after it emerged that Maroney, 22, had been required to sign a gag order preventing her from talking about the abuse under the terms of a US$1.25 million (S$1.65 million) settlement agreed in 2016. It waived the order last week following criticism.

The 2012 US Olympic women's team won gold with all-around champion Gabby Douglas and floor exercise champion Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, Kyla Ross and Maroney. Wieber, 22, admitted on Friday in a sentencing hearing for Nassar that she had been sexually abused by him, the first time she had publicly revealed the assault.

On Monday, ESPN reported that John Geddert, coach of that team, has been suspended by USA Gymnastics pending completion of an investigation.

The 60-year-old was the personal coach to Wieber, and has come under intense scrutiny because of his close personal and professional relationship to Nassar. Geddert operated two gyms that employed Nassar, ESPN reported.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2018, with the headline 'USA Gymnastics exec leadership resigns'. Print Edition | Subscribe