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USOC fires official as Larry Nassar report released

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The U.S. Olympic Committee fired chief of sport performance Alan Ashley in the wake of an independent report released Monday that said neither he nor former CEO Scott Blackmun elevated concerns about the Larry Nassar sexual abuse allegations when they were first reported to them.

The 233-page independent report detailed an overall lack of response when the USOC leaders first heard about the Nassar allegations from the then-president of USA Gymnastics, Steve Penny.

Blackmun resigned in February because of health concerns.

The report says the USOC took no action between first hearing of the allegations in July 2015 and September 2016, when the Indianapolis Star published an account of Nassar’s sex abuse. The report concludes that lack of action allowed Nassar to abuse dozens more girls over the 14 months of silence.

Nassar is serving decades in prison on charges of child pornography and for molesting young women and girls under the guise of medical treatment; many of his accusers testified in heart-wrenching detail at his sentencing hearing.

Though Ashley was the only one to get fired in the immediate aftermath of its release, the report paints a harsh picture of leadership of the entire U.S. Olympic movement, from the offices of the USOC to what it portrays as an essentially rogue, unchecked operation at the Karolyi Ranch in Texas — the training center run by Bela and Martha Karolyi where some of the abuse occurred.

The report concludes that one of Penny’s key objectives was to keep the allegations under wraps, to avoid “sending shockwaves through the community,” as he said in a conversation with an FBI agent.

Meanwhile, Penny is portrayed as repeatedly trying to get the FBI to investigate Nassar, but the report concludes “the investigation appears to have languished … for over seven months” in the FBI’s Detroit office. USAG took the allegations to the FBI’s Los Angeles office, but not until the newspaper report came out did that office take action.

The report says Penny notified Blackmun and Ashley that Nassar had retired in September 2015, but that both leaders had deleted the email, which referenced Nassar by name.

The report details the USOC’s relationships with the sports organizations it oversees as too deferential and not involved enough in policymaking to ensure athlete safety.

“In this governance model, the USOC exerted its broad statutory authority and monetary influence over individual sports primarily for the purpose of encouraging success at the Olympic Games, effectively outsourcing any decisions regarding on-the-ground child-protective practices to the NGBs,” the report states.

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USA Gymnastics files for bankruptcy

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USA Gymnastics is turning to bankruptcy in an attempt to ensure its survival.

The embattled organization filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition on Wednesday in an effort to reach settlements in the dozens of sex-abuse lawsuits it faces and to avoid its potential demise at the hands of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

USA Gymnastics filed the petition in Indianapolis, where it is based. It faces 100 lawsuits representing over 350 athletes in various courts across the country who blame the group for failing to supervise Larry Nassar, a team doctor accused of molesting them. Nassar, 55, worked at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University for decades. He is serving effective life sentences for child porn possession and molesting young women and girls under the guise of medical treatment.

Kathryn Carson, the recently elected chairwoman of USA Gymnastics’ board of directors, said the organization’s goal is to speed things up after mediation attempts failed to gain traction.

“Those discussions were not moving at any pace,” Carson said. “We as a board felt this was a critical imperative and decided to take this action.”

The filing does not affect the amount of money available to victims, which would come from previously purchased insurance coverage, she said. Carson said the insurance companies “are aware we’re taking this action and our expectation is they will come to the table and pay on our coverage.”

Carson added: “This is not a liquidation. This is a reorganization.”

John Manly, an attorney representing dozens of women who have pending lawsuits against USA Gymnastics, chastised the organization for continuing to “inflict unimaginable pain on survivors” and encouraged law enforcement officials to “redouble” their investigative efforts.

“Today’s bankruptcy filing by USA Gymnastics was the inevitable result of the inability of this organization to meet its core responsibility of protecting its athlete members from abuse,” Manly said in a statement. “The leadership of USA Gymnastics has proven itself to be both morally and financially bankrupt.”

USA Gymnastics insists that’s not the case, stressing that the filing is based on legal expediency, not fiscal distress.

While Carson acknowledged that sponsorship is down since the first women came forward against Nassar in the fall of 2016, she described the financial condition of USA Gymnastics as “stable.”

USA Gymnastics reported assets in a range of $50 million to $100 million and a similar range of liabilities, with 1,000 to 5,000 creditors. The organization said its largest unsecured creditor is former president and CEO Steve Penny, who is owed $339,999.96. USA Gymnastics is disputing Penny’s claim, though attorney Cathy Steege declined to get into the specific nature of the dispute.

Penny resigned under pressure from the USOC in March 2017. Two other presidents — Kerry Perry and former U.S. Rep. Mary Bono — have followed in what has become a revolving door amid the organization’s hierarchy.

It’s that chaos at the top that led the USOC to initiate the process of removing USA Gymnastics as the sport’s national governing body at the Olympic level — a step that’s taken only under the most extreme circumstances.

In an open letter to the gymnastics community in November, USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland said “you deserve better,” and that the challenges facing USA Gymnastics were more than it was capable of overcoming as currently constructed.

Carson said the legal maneuvering Wednesday delays the USOC’s efforts to strip its designation as a national governing body.

“We always have a dialogue going with them and intend to make it clear with them we have a lot to talk about and we want to keep that going,” she said.

USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said the committee is reviewing the filing’s potential effect on decertification. “Financial stability and viability are essential for a national governing body to operate in the best interests of the athletes,” Sandusky said.

USA Gymnastics believes bankruptcy protects it from having opportunities or assets taken away by a debtor. Carson acknowledged that being a national governing body “is a big part of how we raise our revenue.”

Carson, who replaced Karen Golz as chairwoman last week, said she accepted the position because she believes in the direction of USA Gymnastics, which she said doesn’t need money but rather time.

“We think we’re changing the dynamic and we certainly believe that we will try to remain the NGB,” Carson said. “To be clear, it is our lawyers’ firm belief that the bankruptcy will automatically stay (decertification) … and we will work with the USOC to regain credibility.”

Nicholas Georgakopoulos, a bankruptcy expert and law professor at the Indiana University’s Indianapolis campus, said USA Gymnastics is “hoping for a miracle” with its legal maneuvering.

“The USOC says you violated this relationship, here are the consequences and USA Gymnastics is saying it filed for bankruptcy, there are no consequences,” Georgakopoulos said. “This is like a gambling addict who goes to the casino and gambles every day and one day the casino says you can’t come anymore, you’ve lost too much, and addict says, I filed for bankruptcy, you can’t stop me from coming to the casino.”

If the USOC wants to go forward with decertification, it must now go to court.

USA Gymnastics has no timetable on how long the bankruptcy process will take and did not offer a ballpark on how much it expects to pay in settlements. Its doors, however, remain open for business.

“We are continuing to pursue all aspects of our current operating model,” Carson said. “This affords us an opportunity to reorganize as well as resolve the claims with the survivors.”

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Ron Galimore, USA Gymnastics COO, resigns

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Longtime USA Gymnastics chief operating officer Ron Galimore resigned Friday, the latest high-profile departure for the embattled organization in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal.

The move came as USA Gymnastics is facing decertification of its status as the national governing body for the sport amid concerns about its leadership and the way it handled complaints against Nassar. The former team doctor is now serving decades in prison for sexual assault and possession of child pornography.

Nassar is accused of sexually abusing hundreds of female athletes under the guise of treatment at both USA Gymnastics and Michigan State.

USA Gymnastics did not comment on the move Friday beyond saying in a statement that its board accepted the resignation and wished Galimore “well in his future endeavors.”

Galimore released a statement Friday night, saying:

“I am proud to have served USA Gymnastics and its members for more than 24 years. I realize that changes are necessary as the gymnastics community moves forward in the wake of Larry Nassar’s horrific actions, which affected so many in our sport.

“I want to be clear that my resignation was not associated in any manner with the online discourse and media reports that have tried to link me to an effort to shield Nassar from scrutiny. I have spoken with investigators and been deposed concerning these matters, and am confident that I have always acted responsibly and with the best interests of athletes in mind.

“Gymnastics has been the center of my life since I was a kid. I resigned from my position with both a degree of sadness but also the hope that my departure may aid USA Gymnastics in pursuing its vision for a new beginning as it undergoes restructuring with a renewed sense of focus on creating a safe place for children to learn gymnastics.”

The Indianapolis Star reported in May that an attorney hired by USA Gymnastics directed Galimore to come up with a false excuse to explain Nassar’s absence at major gymnastic events in the summer of 2015. The organization was looking into complaints against Nassar at the time.

“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, wrote in an email, according to the newspaper.

USA Gymnastics is accused of covering up assault allegations. The group didn’t tell Michigan State or elite gymnastics clubs about complaints against him in 2015. The organization said it did not disclose the complaints out of guidance from the FBI.

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.

While there has been significant turnover atop the organization in the last two years — USA Gymnastics is currently searching for its fourth president and chief executive officer since March 2017 — Galimore remained on as its second-highest ranking officer. Though he kept a lower profile in recent months, he was a medal presenter at the world championships earlier this month.

Galimore’s continued presence had been a point of contention with Nassar survivors and vocal critics who wondered how committed USA Gymnastics is to changing its culture if it allowed Galimore to remain on board.

New USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland told the gymnastics community “you deserve better,” in an open letter released earlier this month. Hirshland said the challenges facing USA Gymnastics are more than it is capable of overcoming as currently constructed.

The organization is weighing whether to give up its status as a national governing body on its own or if it will try to convince the USOC that it can fix its problems and create an environment that puts an emphasis on athlete safety, wellness and overall transparency.

Galimore, a standout gymnast who was on the 1980 U.S. Olympic team that boycotted the Moscow Games, joined USA Gymnastics in 1994, initially working with the men’s program before moving into other areas within the organization.

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