USA Gymnastics hires Kerry Perry after sex abuse scandal

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USA Gymnastics is reaching outside the sport in an effort to move forward after a sex abuse scandal.

The organization hired Kerry Perry as its new president and CEO on Tuesday. She was the vice president of business development at Learfield Communications. Perry will officially start on Dec. 1.

“My focus is going to be creating an environment of empowerment where all have a strong voice and we are dedicated every single day on athlete safety,” Perry said.

She replaces Steve Penny, who resigned in March after 12 years on the job following criticism over the way USA Gymnastics handled sexual abuse claims.

USA Gymnastics has been rocked by accusations of sexual misconduct against Larry Nassar, the former national team doctor from 1996-2015. Nassar is in jail in Michigan awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography.

He’s also awaiting trial on separate criminal sexual conduct charges and has been sued by more than 125 women alleging abuse. Nassar has pleaded not guilty to the assault charges.

The U.S. women have won the last two team titles at the Olympics, as well as the last four all-around golds.

Perry doesn’t have a gymnastics background, but the mother of two said her top priority is in line with the governing body’s renewed emphasis on the protection of more than 150,000 members — the vast majority children — at 3,500 clubs in the country.

David Benck, chairman of the seven-person search committee, said Perry was approved by a unanimous vote.

“Everybody wanted us to find the best leader we could possibly find, someone that could bring increased transparency and leadership and team building skills to the organization to really try and take the organization, from the grass roots all the way to the board, take it forward and rebuild the trust in the entire company,” Benck said.

Perry takes over one of the Olympic movement’s most high-profile programs, one that captured 105 Olympic or world championship medals since Penny began his tenure in 2005.

American women have become a dominant force over the last 13 years. Simone Biles produced a record run at the 2016 Rio Olympics, winning four gold medals to go along with a bronze.

USA Gymnastics launched an independent review of its policies in the wake of the allegations against Nassar in the summer of 2016, following reporting by the Indianapolis Star that highlighted chronic mishandling of abuse allegations against coaches and staff at member clubs across the country.

In June, the board adopted the new USA Gymnastics Safe Sport Policy that replaced the previous policy. Key updates include mandatory reporting, defining six types of misconduct, setting standards to prohibit grooming behavior, prevent inappropriate interaction and establishing accountability.

In July, the organization hired Toby Stark, a child welfare advocate, as its director of Safe Sport. Part of Stark’s mandate is educating members on rules, educational programs and reporting. The federation also adopted several recommendations by Deborah Daniels, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw the review.

Two-time Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney and 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Jamie Dantzscher have discussed alleged abuse by Nassar.

Dantzscher and six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman have called for sweeping changes in leadership, including the removal of the chairman of the board Paul Parilla.

Perry declined to get into specifics about the future of the current leadership, saying only “I have confidence in our leadership and staff.”

She says her concern is helping restore faith in the organization.

“I want all the moms and dads to know that when they drop their children off at a USA Gymnastics gym or club, that they have the confidence knowing we’re doing everything at every level of the organization to ensure that their children are safe so they can thrive in a sport that so many of us love,” she said.

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Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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