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USOC seeks to revoke USA Gymnastics as national governing body

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The U.S. Olympic Committee is seeking to shut down USA Gymnastics in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual-abuse crimes and several leadership changes.

“You deserve better,” USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland wrote in an open letter to the U.S. gymnastics community, two days after the world championships concluded.

Hirshland wrote that a review panel will be identified, a hearing will be held, a report will be issued, a recommendation will be made regarding USA Gymnastics’ status as a national governing body and the USOC board will vote, without detailing a timeline.

“You might be asking why now?” wrote Hirshland, who in July was named the USOC’s first permanent female CEO. “The short answer is that we believe the challenges facing the organization are simply more than it is capable of overcoming in its current form. We have worked closely with the new USAG board over recent months to support them, but despite diligent effort, the NGB continues to struggle. And that’s not fair to gymnasts around the country. Even weeks ago, I hoped there was a different way forward. But we now believe that is no longer possible.

“This is a situation in which there are no perfect solutions.”

USA Gymnastics’ board of directors said in a statement that it is “evaluating the best path forward for our athletes, professional members, the organization and staff” after the USOC issued a letter to USA Gymnastics initiating the complaint.

“USA Gymnastics’ board was seated in June 2018 and inherited an organization in crisis with significant challenges that were years in the making,” the statement read. “In the four months since, the Board has done everything it could to move this organization towards a better future. We immediately took steps to change the leadership and are currently conducting a search to find a CEO who can rebuild the organization and, most importantly, regain the trust of the gymnastics community. Substantial work remains — in particular, working with the plaintiffs and USA Gymnastics’ insurers to resolve the ongoing litigation as quickly as possible. We will continue to prioritize our athletes’ health and safety and focus on acting in the best interests of the greater gymnastics community.”

Hirshland called for changes in USA Gymnastics leadership on Aug. 31, not a month into her new role.

“Under the circumstances, we feel that the organization is struggling to manage its obligations effectively and it is time to consider making adjustments in the leadership,” she said then, adding that the USOC would be reaching out to the USAG board to discuss changes.

USA Gymnastics is without a CEO after Mary Bono resigned Oct. 16, four days after being appointed to the role.

Bono replaced Kerry Perry, who resigned after Hirshland’s August comments. Bono received criticism for a September photo of herself drawing over a Nike logo on a golf shoe tweeted from her account shortly after Nike debuted its advertising campaign featuring former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Notably, Olympic all-around champion Simone Biles tweeted of Bono, “*mouth drop* don’t worry, it’s not like we needed a smarter usa gymnastics president or any sponsors or anything.” Nike is one of Biles’ sponsors.

Biles is among the more than 200 women who have come forward over the last two years claiming they were sexually abused by former team doctor Nassar under the guise of treatment. Biles was critical of Perry, who replaced Steve Penny, for not being vocal enough in support of the survivors.

“Gymnastics as a sport will remain a bedrock for the Olympic community in the United States,” Hirshland wrote. “We will ensure support for the Olympic hopefuls who may represent us in Tokyo in 2020.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Salwa Eid Naser, world 400m champion, provisionally banned

Salwa Eid Naser
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Salwa Eid Naser, the world 400m champion of Bahrain, was provisionally suspended for missing three drug tests in a 12-month span.

“I’ve never been a cheat. I will never be,” Naser, 22, said in an Instagram live video. “I only missed three drug tests, which is normal. It happens. It can happen to anybody. I don’t want people to get confused in all this because I would never cheat.”

Naser said “the missed tests” came before last autumn’s world championships, where she ran the third-fastest time in history (48.14 seconds) and the fastest in 34 years.

“This year I have not been drug tested,” she said. “We are still talking about the ones of last season before the world championships.”

The Athletics Integrity Unit, which handles doping cases for track and field, did not announce whether Naser’s gold medal could be stripped.

“Hopefully, it’ll get resolved because I don’t really like the image, but it has happened,” she said. “It’s going to be fine. It’s very hard to have this little stain on my name.”

Naser, the 2017 World silver medalist, upset Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas for the world title in Doha on Oct. 3.

The only women who have run faster than Naser, who was born Ebelechukwu Agbapuonwu in Nigeria to a Nigerian mother who sprinted and a Bahraini father, were dubious — East German Marita Koch (47.60) and Czechoslovakia’s Jarmila Kratochvilova (47.99).

“I would never take performance-enhancing drugs,” Naser said. “I believe in talent, and I know I have the talent.”

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When Laurie Hernandez winked at the Olympics

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Blink, and you may have missed one of the social-media-sensation moments of the Rio Olympics.

Laurie Hernandez, then 16, was the youngest woman on the U.S. Olympic team across all sports. She was about to start arguably the most important floor exercise routine of her life.

So, she winked.

“The amazing thing about the Olympics is that you feel so many different emotions in the span of a few days, and they are all intense,” she wrote in her 2017 book, “I Got This,” a nod to what she told herself before her balance beam routine earlier that night. “So it was nice to have at least one totally playful moment.”

The U.S., on its fourth and final rotation, already had the team gold all but locked up. Knowing she was nervous, Hernandez’s teammates confirmed to her that they were a few points ahead.

Then Hernandez heard the beep, and it was time to go. She was in the view of an out-of-bounds judge at the Rio Olympic Arena.

“Well, I looked straight at her and suddenly felt this surge of confidence to wink,” she wrote. “Later, a woman came up to me while I was watching Simone [Biles] and Aly [Raisman] compete in their all-around finals and she said, ‘Wow, I just want you to know that when you winked at the judge, it really worked.’ I didn’t know how to respond, so I just said, ‘Thank you. That’s very nice of you to say.’ That’s when she told me she was the out-of-bounds judge! All I could say was ‘Oh my goodness.'”

Hernandez, a New Jersey native, finished the Olympics with a team gold and balance beam silver.

She took more than two years off before making a comeback in earnest last year, announcing she planned to return to competition this spring under new coaches in California. Now that’s on hold given the coronavirus pandemic, which pushed the Tokyo Olympics to 2021.

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