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Ex-USA Gymnastics CEO refuses to answer questions on sex abuse scandal

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The former president of USA Gymnastics refused to answer questions Tuesday from a Senate subcommittee about how he handled allegations of sexual abuse by former team doctor Larry Nassar, and another former executive sat next to him and asserted that he instructed her and others to keep quiet after she informed him of athletes’ claims.

Rhonda Faehn, the former senior vice president of USA Gymnastics, said she first reported an allegation against Nassar to Steve Penny, her then-boss, on June 17, 2015.

Nassar was not arrested until more than a year later. He is now serving decades in prison for sexual assault and possession of child pornography, and hundreds of athletes have said they were abused by him, including Olympic gymnasts Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Simone Biles.

The revelations about Nassar’s conduct over two decades and the way it was handled by Penny and others have led Congress to call for drastic reforms of the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and other sports’ governing bodies.

Faehn said Penny warned her and others not to discuss the allegations against Nassar and that she wrongly assumed he had taken the allegations to law enforcement.

“He told me not to say anything or do anything because he was going to handle everything going forward,” Faehn said in her written testimony, “and he told me he was going to report the concerns to proper authorities, which I assumed included law enforcement.”

Faehn reiterated those claims as Penny, who was forced out as president of USA Gymnastics last year, sat silently next to her. When it was his turn to speak, he didn’t say much.

Penny invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination six times before he was excused by the panel.

As he slowly limped out of the hearing room, former gymnast Amy Moran shouted “Shame!” in his direction. Moran alleges she was abused by her former coach and reported it to Penny, and she was unsatisfied with Penny’s response to the allegations, which she now sees as a precursor to how he handled the Nassar case.

Testimonies: Martha Karolyi | Scott Blackmun | Lou Anna Simon | Rhonda Faehn

Penny was subpoenaed to appear before the committee. Senators questioned him on when he found out about the abuse allegations and why he waited to inform law enforcement or Nassar’s employer, Michigan State University.

Asked why he waited to contact law enforcement about Nassar, Penny said: “I would like to answer your question. However, I have been instructed by my attorney to assert my rights under the Fifth Amendment. … I respectfully decline to answer your question.”

Penny has been named as a defendant in a number of lawsuits by athletes who were victimized by Nassar.

“He is repulsed by Larry Nassar’s crimes, and he feels nothing but compassion for the victims of those crimes,” Penny’s attorney, Robert Bittman, said in a statement. “Mr. Penny declined to testify before the subcommittee while the matters that attempt to wrongly shift blame for Nassar’s crimes remain open.”

Faehn broke into tears as she described the actions she took in an effort to protect Nassar’s victims. But victims who attended the hearing said they were disappointed she didn’t do more.

“You just see all these little people thinking they did their thing, but no one took the one step that should have been taken, which is go to the police, or the authorities. The one thing one person could have done is do that. No one did that,” said former gymnast Emily Stebbins, who alleges she was abused by Nassar the first time he examined her as a teenager.

“You see what Steve Penny did with the information,” Stebbins said of Faehn. “What should you have done further when you saw no action was being taken?”

Faehn also said she was fired last month immediately after she informed current USA Gymnastics president Kerry Perry that she was willing to testify before the committee and that she likely would be subpoenaed if she refused.

USA Gymnastics representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the circumstances of Faehn’s firing.

Former Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon also appeared Tuesday under subpoena, although she said she was willing to testify and was compelled by subpoena only because her attorney had a scheduling conflict.

“I am horrified that Nassar’s crimes happened during my tenure,” Simon said. “Had I known that Nassar was sexually abusing young women, I would have taken immediate action to prevent him from preying on additional victims.”

The subcommittee chairman, Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas, and other senators pledged to continue their work toward reform of U.S. Olympic sports’ governing bodies.

“Apologies are not enough,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat. “We have to honor these survivors with real action.”

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Ex-USA Gymnastics leaders slated for Senate hearing on abuse

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Former USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny and former women’s program head Rhonda Faehn are scheduled witnesses for a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on abuse in Olympic sports next Tuesday.

“The hearing will focus on how past processes to protect our Olympic athletes from abuse have failed to keep athletes safe and explore current efforts to provide a safe environment for amateur athletes,” according to a press release.

The hearing is titled, “Preventing abuse in Olympic and amateur athletics: Ensuring a safe and secure environment for our athletes.”

The witness list, which also includes former Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon, is subject to change. A live stream of the hearing will be at www.commerce.senate.gov.

Penny hasn’t spoken to media since resigning on March 16, 2017, after serving in his role while Larry Nassar sexually abused gymnasts both with the national team and at Michigan State.

Simon resigned Jan. 24. Faehn was forced out of USA Gymnastics two weeks ago after serving in her role since 2015.

In summer 2015, a coach overheard U.S. gymnasts Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols discussing Nassar’s pelvic treatments as national team doctor. The coach reported it to Faehn, who reported it to Penny, according to NBC News.

USA Gymnastics has been criticized for not immediately calling police. Though Nassar stopped working with national-team gymnasts, it would be another year before he was fired from Michigan State.

More than 300 women and girls have since said they were sexually abused by Nassar during his two decades with USA Gymnastics and Michigan State.

Nassar pleaded guilty to molesting women and girls under the guise that it was treatment. He was also found to have child pornography and is serving prison sentences that will likely keep him locked up for life.

Acting U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Susanne Lyons and leaders of USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming, USA Volleyball, USA Taekwondo and the U.S. Center for SafeSport testified at a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing on sexual abuse within the U.S. Olympic community last Wednesday.

On April 18, four Olympic sports athletes, including 2012 Olympic champion gymnast Jordyn Wieber, testified at a Senate subcommittee hearing on the role of national governing bodies in protecting athletes from abuse.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Larry Nassar, USA Gymnastics deception shown in emails

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — USA Gymnastics agreed to use false excuses in 2015 to account for the absence of sports doctor Larry Nassar, who had been accused of sexually abusing female athletes, according to emails obtained by a newspaper.

Nassar suggested that USA Gymnastics tell people that he couldn’t attend two major events that summer because he was sick or needed to focus on his work at Michigan State University, the Indianapolis Star reported Thursday.

“We’ll let Ron know to advise people that you weren’t feeling well and decided to stay home,” Scott Himsel, an attorney hired by USA Gymnastics, replied, referring to Ron Galimore, chief operating officer.

USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians, is accused of covering up assault allegations against Nassar. The group didn’t tell Michigan State or elite gymnastics clubs about complaints against him in 2015.

Nassar publicly stated in September 2015 that he was retiring from the Indianapolis-based group, but he continued to see young women and girls for many months at his Michigan State office and a gym near Lansing, Michigan.

USA Gymnastics and Himsel declined to comment on the Star story. The group has said it didn’t disclose the Nassar investigation to others based on guidance from the FBI.

“I don’t think that they cared at all,” Olympian Aly Raisman said. “I think at first it was to get … Nassar away from the Olympians, but when it was about a 10-year-old or a 15-year-old or 20-year-old in Michigan they didn’t care.”

Nassar is serving decades in prison for sexual assault and possession of child pornography.

Michigan State has agreed to pay $425 million to 332 victims and set aside $75 million for additional claimants. There’s been no broad settlement involving USA Gymnastics.

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