Three members of USA Gymnastics’ Board of Directors resigned Monday as the full impact and scope of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse continued to be exposed during a sentencing hearing in Ingham County (Mich.) Circuit Court. Chairman Paul Parilla, vice chairman Jay Binder and treasurer Bitsy Kelly all stepped down. CEO Steve Penny had previously done so.
“We believe this step will allow us to more effectively move forward in implementing change within our organization,” new CEO Kerry Perry said.
The resignations aren’t just needed, they’re overdue. More should follow.
USA Gymnastics must answer to how Nassar, its longtime national team doctor, was able to sexually abuse so many of its athletes directly under its watch. Yet in what speaks more specifically about the organization’s culture, however, there are questions about how the organization conducted itself since the scandal broke.
While the aforementioned may not be specifically or criminally culpable for Nassar’s actions (we’ll see), they have no excuse for what Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman pointed out when providing a victim impact statement in court last Friday.
“They have been very quick to capitalize on my success,” Raisman, who competed in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, said of USAG. “But did they reach out when I came forward [as a victim]?
No? No? Not at all?
USA Gymnastics is bankrupt. Not financially, although pending law suits will take a swing at that. Ethically, sensibly or in terms of basic human concern, though, what exactly is an organization that simply ignores a revelation such as Raisman’s, or Gabby Douglas’ or Simone Biles’ or Jordyn Weiber’s, or another of the other national team gymnasts who didn’t ascend into household names?
USA Gymnastics heard that its own team doctor, performing treatments that USA Gymnastics deemed “mandatory,” sexually abused its greatest and most accomplished gymnasts during its own training camps and international competitions where athletes were isolated from their parents and … no one there thought: We should call them up, apologize, ask what happened and see if there is anything anyone needed.
We should help.
Instead they ignored.
How any group, let alone one designed to uplift and protect children, could be so callous is a mystery.
When McKayla Maroney, who won gold and silver at the 2012 games, came forward about Nassar abusing her, USAG made a financial settlement with the desperate, depressed and suicidal young woman who needed money for counseling. It included a pathetic non-disclosure agreement that would cost her $100,000 if she spoke publicly about Nassar.
Only under intense public and media backlash did USAG get shamed into lifting the sanction.
“I had a dream to go to the Olympics,” Maroney said last week, once she was freed to do so. “And the things I had to endure to get there were unnecessary and disgusting.”
When Nassar’s reign of terror was first uncovered, USA Gymnastics should have sprung into action to support and listen to his victims. Instead, it seemingly lawyered up and forgot who it was serving – the gymnasts who earned it so many millions through the years, not the millions themselves. It suggests it always saw these girls and women as nothing more than replaceable pawns.
Nassar was a USA Gymnastics-provided scourge. He was allowed to mandate treatments, even if athletes were healthy or uncomfortable. He was granted unfettered access to dorm rooms at the Karolyi Ranch during national team training camps. At competitions, he treated girls alone, either in their or his hotel room. Nassar even sat on boards and advisory panels to write USAG’s policies to prevent sexual assault, according to Raisman.
He didn’t just abuse them sexually, he failed them athletically.
Weiber entered the 2012 Olympics as the favorite to win all-around gold, the ultimate prize in gymnastics. Shin splints, however, limited her ability to practice and, she said, rattled her confidence. In London, she shockingly failed to even qualify for all-around finals. Douglas, her teammate, went on to win it. She admits the failure sent her to a “dark place.”
“Now I question everything,” Weiber said. “Was Larry doing anything to help my pain? Was I getting the proper medical care? Or was he only focused on which one of us he was going to prey on next?”
USA Gymnastics didn’t just set Weiber up with a child molester. It failed to get her proper medical help, perhaps ending her lifelong dream of winning all-around and leaving her to compete with untreated injuries.
You think that might merit a phone call of support, of apology, of inquiry into what Weiber thought went wrong and how it might be prevented?
USA Gymnastics didn’t.
Doing so isn’t an admission of guilt. If anything, not doing so might be. (A request for comment to USA Gymnastics about why it hasn’t reached out to Raisman and others went, predictably, unreturned.)
USA Gymnastics built a system that delivered piles of gold medals and piles of cash. It also produced a parade of victims and a trail of shattered lives.
And it was run by people without the dignity and decency to even address the victims. Now, some of them are gone. More should be.
The place can’t get scrubbed soon enough.
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