Aly Raisman Calling For Independent Investigation Into USOC, USA Gymnastics
Gold Medal-winning gymnast Aly Raisman is "calling for an independent investigation into the USOC and USA Gymnastics," according to Heather Tucker of USA TODAY. Raisman tweeted a lengthy statement last night in "reaction to three members of the USA Gymnastics board of directors resigning and the USOC's response." Raisman, who is among the more than 140 women to say former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar sexually abused her, called out the organization, saying that the "resignations are too little, too late and don't fix the heart of the problem -- athletes have been abused and there are no checks and balances to keep such behavior from happening again." USA Gymnastics Chair Paul Parilla, Vice Chair Jay Binder and Treasurer Bitsy Kelley "resigned after several days of public criticism as women and girls read victim statements at the sentencing of Nassar at a court in Michigan on charges of criminal sexual conduct." The allegations "first came to light" more than a year ago (USA TODAY, 1/23). Gold Medal-winning gymnast Shawn Johnson East also criticized USA Gymnastics for "making winning a priority while failing to protect its athletes." Johnson East said that the NGB "failed to protect female athletes by disregarding their safety, instead pursuing gold medals." She suggested that the organization "needs to change." Johnson East: "If I had a daughter right now, I couldn't put her in it. I can't even trust USA Gymnastics" (DES MOINES REGISTER, 1/23).
TIME'S UP: The resignations of Parilla, Binder and Kelley come amid growing calls for a total overhaul of the NGB in the wake of the Nassar trial and follow former CEO Steve Penny as a casualty of the scandal. Parilla earlier this month was summoned to USOC HQ in Colorado Springs, where Chair Larry Probst and CEO Scott Blackmun suggested he resign, according to sources. "Since October of last year, we have been engaged in discussions with leadership of USA Gymnastics about the primary recommendation of the Daniels Report -- changing the culture of USA Gymnastics,” Blackmun said in a statement. "Those discussions accelerated over the holidays and today you have seen three board resignations." The USOC cannot remove members of an NGB BOD, and it is not known if the USOC threatened to de-fund or de-certify if Parilla refused. "New board leadership is necessary because the current leaders have been focused on establishing that they did nothing wrong,” Blackmun continued. Parilla, named Chair in '15, was Vice Chair from '09-15 and chaired a key committee before that. He signed off on Penny’s $1M severance package. The remaining BOD will identify an interim chair until a permanent selection is named. Two-time Olympian Shannon Miller, who was on the CEO search committee, said the new chair would probably require the same combination of traits that Perry has. Miller: "Someone who knows something about gymnastics, but also is maybe a bit of an outsider, is probably a good choice, just as it was for the CEO. Someone who can do the job, for lack of a better term, without any baggage attached" (Ben Fischer, Staff Writer).
LONG OVERDUE: In California, Scott Reid noted USOC leadership has been "frustrated for months by both Parilla’s refusal to step down amid widespread demands for his resignation and USA Gymnastics’ continued mishandling of the Nassar scandal and other sexual abuse cases." Many in the sport "expected Parilla to step down after the June release of the Daniels Report that found the organization has had a 'largely ineffective approach' to preventing sexual abuse within the sport, failing both to keep pace with best practices and to hold non-compliant gyms and clubs accountable" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 1/23). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote, "The resignations aren’t just needed, they’re overdue. More should follow." 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." It was run by people "without the dignity and decency to even address the victims." Wetzel: "Now, some of them are gone. More should be. The place can’t get scrubbed soon enough" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/22). In S.F., Scott Ostler writes it is really "too bad that three leaders of USA Gymnastics resigned," as they "should have been fired long ago" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 1/23).
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH: In DC, Kevin Blackistone writes USA Gymnastics should "self-impose a penalty by withdrawing from the next world championships and Olympics until its house is razed and rebuilt on a foundation of respect and protection of the athletes upon whom it makes its name" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 1/23).