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How USA Gymnastics keeps unraveling -- even after Larry Nassar

When ...

Posted: Nov 7, 2018 10:22 PM
Updated: Nov 7, 2018 10:23 PM

When Larry Nassar was sent behind bars for abusing young athletes, everyone hoped it would mark the end of USA Gymnastics' big controversies.

It didn't. Instead, the 200,000-member USAG has been mired in one scandal after another, including recent criminal charges against former employees, a revolving door of presidents and now the possible removal of USAG's status as the US governing body for the sport.

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Here's a look at how the post-Nassar recovery has been plagued by problems -- and how some gymnasts are reacting:

More criminal charges get filed

Steve Penny was the president and CEO of USA Gymnastics from 2005 to 2017, during which many of Nassar's accusers said they were molested by the former team doctor.

Penny once testified that he didn't think it was always necessary to forward child abuse allegations to authorities. He also expressed concern that false allegations could harm a coach's reputation, the Indianapolis Star reported.

He was arrested last month and accused of tampering with evidence and removing documents related to the Nassar sex abuse scandal from the Karolyi Ranch training facility.

If convicted of the third-degree felony charge, Penny faces up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Former gymnast Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of abuse, lauded Penny's arrest.

"This is for every little girl who could have been saved from Larry, and from every coach that Penny received warnings about, and then put into a file cabinet," Denhollander posted on Facebook. "May justice continue to be done."

In addition to Penny, former USAG trainer Deborah Van Horn also faces a criminal charge. She was arrested in June and charged with sexual assault of a child in the second degree.

Prosecutors said Van Horn's charge stems from "acting as a party." Officials said one of Nassar's victims is the same victim Van Horn is charged with assaulting.

2 USAG presidents resign in 2 months

After the Nassar sex abuse scandal erupted -- and after Penny quit USAG -- Kerry Perry became USAG's new president last December.

Many hoped she would create a drastically new, open culture and reach out to high-profile Nassar abuse survivors. But Perry was widely criticized for what many considered inadequate action and boilerplate soundbites after the Nassar scandal.

After nine months on the job, Perry resigned in September.

USAG board members then appointed former US Rep. Mary Bono as interim president and CEO in October. But she didn't last a week.

Bono came under fire after a September tweet surfaced of her defacing a Nike logo. (Nike had recently featured former NFL player and civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick in an ad campaign.)

But Nike is also a huge sponsor of Olympic champion Simone Biles, the biggest star of USA Gymnastics and the face of the sport. Biles called Bono out on her tweet.

"don't worry, it's not like we needed a smarter usa gymnastics president or any sponsors or anything," Biles tweeted.

Others said Bono's tweet was tone-deaf in the wake of the Nassar scandal, saying it was the suppression of athletes' voices that allowed Nassar's abuse to fester.

Bono deleted the tweet and said she regretted the post.

"I deeply regret posting the tweet because I respect everyone's views and their fundamental right to express them," Bono said in a statement October 13.

"This in no way reflects how I will approach my position at USA Gymnastics. I will do everything I can to help change the culture and to work with the entire community to build an open, safe and positive environment."

But three days after releasing that statement, Bono resigned. USAG is still looking for a new CEO.

More ousters, resignations or suspensions

At least five high-ranking officials have left USAG in the past seven months, even though most came on board after the Nassar sex-abuse scandal came to light.

In addition to Perry and Bono, former elite development coordinator Mary Lee Tracy is out. Tracy had been on the job for only three days when she was asked to resign in August.

USAG said Tracy had "inappropriately contacted a [Nassar] survivor, who is also a represented plaintiff, in response to that survivor's public criticism of her."

In May, USAG lost the head of its women's program, Rhonda Faehn. Then-CEO Perry would not say whether Faehn was fired or resigned, calling Faehn's departure a "personnel matter that we will not discuss in detail."

And last month, head tumbling coach Sergio Galvez was directed to resign "pending an investigation of a report filed at the US Center for SafeSport," USAG said.

No details were released on what was alleged in that report. Online USAG records show Galvez was suspended pending a hearing.

Galvez was forbidden from traveling with the US team to the World Trampoline and Tumbling Championships in Russia this week.

On Wednesday, USAG told CNN that Galvez had resigned.

No clear future

Perhaps the most damaging post-Nassar hit to USA Gymnastics came Monday, when the US Olympic Committee said it wants to revoke USAG's status as the sport's governing body in America.

The USOC has started taking steps to decertify USA Gymnastics and has offered USAG the option of surrendering its status voluntarily.

"We believe the challenges facing (USAG) are simply more than it is capable of overcoming in its current form," USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland wrote in an open letter to the gymnastics community.

Olympic champion Aly Raisman welcomed the move.

"I believe this is a significant step forward that is necessary for the overall health and well-being of the sport and its athletes," Raisman tweeted. "There are so many amazing, talented, and kindhearted people in this sport, and it's time for them to lead us into the future!"

But it's not clear exactly what will happen next.

"You're no doubt wondering what this means for you and the gymnastics community," Hirshland wrote to athletes. "Until the process is completed and a final determination on USAG's status is made, we will work to ensure that gymnastics training and competitions will continue as usual."

USAG has not said whether it will challenge the USOC's move. In an open letter to its members, the USAG said its board of directors was seated in June "and inherited an organization in crisis with significant challenges that were years in the making."

In the months since, "the board has done everything it could to move this organization towards a better future," USAG said. "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."

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