While America’s best gymnasts are competing in the 2018 FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Doha, Qatar and in the 2018 FIG Trampoline and Tumbling World Championships in Saint Petersburg, Russia, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) took action to revoke the United States of America Gymnastics (USAG) organization of their recognition as a National Governing Body (NGB) for the sport of gymnastics in America. The timing is unfortunate. Nonetheless, their action is a reaction to the slow recovery from perhaps the biggest and most unprecedented scandal in US sports history.
One year ago, the official physician for the USAG, Larry Nassar, was convicted of sexually abusing hundreds of gymnasts over several years. His crimes rocked the sports world, causing sharp rebuke of the USAG and requiring huge changes within the organization. The USOC believes the changes haven’t come quick enough, while also plagued with mistakes.
Amid the fallout of the Nassar trial, there were several key USAG leadership resignations. In addition, a new Board of Directors was mandated. The USOC made recommendations to the USAG to create the new Board of Directors. The USAG accepted those recommendations and built a new Board. In June 2018, the new Board met for the first time. Faced with massive problems, however, they struggled to get off to a good start, making critical mistakes that threatened the confidence of the USOC.
Among their mistakes were their hiring choices. Before the new Board convened, the previous board hired new CEO Kerry Perry to replace Steve Penny, the embattled CEO who resigned after the Nassar convictions. Perry’s tenure lasted only 9 months. Her crucial mistakes also included hiring errors. The new Board then hired interim CEO, Mary Bono, who lasted only 4 days once it was revealed that her law firm represented Larry Nassar in the past. The Board has hired a professional search firm to find a new permanent CEO.
The problems seem insurmountable, so what’s next? Neither organization is sure. USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland wrote in a letter to USAG gymnasts:
So I don’t have a perfect answer today. This is a situation in which there are no perfect solutions. Seeking to revoke recognition is not a decision that we have come to easily, but I believe it is the right action. In the short-term, we will work to ensure that America’s gymnasts have the support necessary to excel on and off the field of play. We are building plans to do just that no matter the outcome of the revocation process.
USA Gymnastics is carefully reviewing the contents of this letter (from the USAC) and is evaluating the best path forward for our athletes, professional members, the organization and staff. We want you to know, we will continue to serve the thousands of young athletes, coaches, club owners, judges and administrators who make up our organization. Our commitment will always be to ensure the health and safety of our members while they pursue their love of the sport. We know this continues to be a difficult time for our organization, and we are so appreciative of all that you do to support our gymnastics community.
Only time will tell.