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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