USA Gymnastics
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Larry Nassar survivors offered $215 million by USA Gymnastics

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USA Gymnastics has filed a bankruptcy plan that includes an offer of $215 million for sexual abuse survivors to settle their claims against the embattled organization.

The $215 million total is the amount USA Gymnastics’ insurance carriers are willing to provide the sport’s national governing body to end years of legal battles with athletes who were abused by former national team doctor Larry Nassar. The two sides have been in mediation since USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy in December 2018.

Nassar is serving decades in prison for sexual assault and possession of child pornography in Michigan. Hundreds of athletes have come forward over the last three years saying Nassar abused them under the guise of treatment, including reigning Olympic champion Simone Biles and six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman.

Bankruptcy law requires businesses to provide an exit plan within 18 months, and the exit plan is another step in a still lengthy process. USA Gymnastics President Li Li Leung told The Associated Press on Thursday that the organization wants to “work toward a true consensual settlement” with survivors.

Leung described the $215 million as the amount the insurance carriers have agreed to provide at this point.

“Our hope is that discussions will continue and more money will be (available),” said Leung, who took over in March 2019, several months after Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy protection. “It’s not capped at $215 (million).”

There is a two-step voting process for claimants to determine whether to accept the offer. At least half the claimants who vote have to approve the agreement, and the majority needs to represent at least two-thirds of the monetary value of the settlement. The claimants could also vote down the measure and continue to pursue their lawsuits to collect any judgments from insurance policies available to USA Gymnastics or they could not vote on it at all and discuss how to go forward.

The proposed settlement does not include any money from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, which has been named as a co-defendant in some of the lawsuits.

John Manly, an attorney representing 200 Nassar survivors, chastised both USA Gymnastics and the USOPC for “blatant disregard” of the victims.

“This proposed plan does not include the critical structural changes necessary to ensure the safety of girls moving forward, nor does it appropriately address the myriad physical and emotional challenges the victims face as a result of these crimes,” Manly said in a statement. “Most disturbingly, this proposed plan attempts to absolve USOPC of any responsibility for these crimes which were committed under its watch. This plan from USAG is not just unworkable, it is unconscionable.”

Michigan State University, where Nassar worked for decades, agreed in May 2018 to pay $500 million to more than 300 women and girls who said they were assaulted by Nassar.

At the time it filed for bankruptcy, USA Gymnastics was facing 100 lawsuits representing more than 350 athletes in various courts across the country who blame the group for failing to supervise Nassar. If claimants agree to accept the offer, the $215 million will be placed into a trust, with the money then distributed by a trustee. A judge would decide how the $215 million is allocated.

The plan put forth by the organization also requires it to continue to strengthen its athlete safety policies. USA Gymnastics revamped its Safe Sport policy last summer and hired its first vice president of athlete health and wellness last December.

The organization hopes to have a bankruptcy exit plan of some kind approved ahead of the Toyko Olympics, which begin in July.

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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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