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USA Gymnastics top directors resign in wake of abuse scandal

USA Gymnastics faced stinging criticism of the organisation's handling of sexual abuse by victims who include Olympic superstar Simone Biles, pictured in 2016
AFP

Chicago (AFP) – The executive leadership of USA Gymnastics’ board of directors has resigned in the wake of the sexual abuse scandal involving former US team doctor Larry Nassar, the governing body announced Monday.

Chairman Paul Parilla, vice chairman Jay Binder and treasurer Bitsy Kelley stepped down following stinging criticism of the organisation’s handling of the Nassar case by victims who include Olympic superstar Simone Biles and other gold medallists.  

“We support their decisions to resign at this time,” said Kerry Perry, who was named president of USA Gymnastics in September.

“We believe this step will allow us to more effectively move forward in implementing change within our organization.”

USA Gymnastics has come under fire during the ongoing sentencing hearing for Nassar in Michigan, in which more than 80 gymnasts have given harrowing evidence against the disgraced former doctor, who faces life in prison for his offences.

The board of directors will name interim chairpersons until permanent selections are made as the beleaguered body tries to advance beyond the scandal. 

In a statement on the USA Gymnastics website, Perry thanked the departing trio of leaders “for their many years of service to this organization.”

“As the board identifies its next chair and fills the vacant board positions, we remain focused on working every day to ensure that our culture, policies and actions reflect our commitment to those we serve.”

– Victims fury –

Perry was hired in November to replace Steve Penny, who had resigned last March after 12 years in the post after criticism over how USA Gymnastics had handled the sexual abuse claims.

Nassar, 54, has pleaded guilty to 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct and faces life in prison. He has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges.

At least 85 victims of Nassar came forward last week to speak at his sentencing hearing in Michigan with more expected this week.

Prosecutors and civil attorneys have said there are more than 100 victims, including his former family babysitter and athletes in several women’s sports programs at Michigan State University, where Nassar worked.

The Karolyi Ranch, a suburban Houston layout once famed as a breeding ground of champions, will no longer serve as a training site for top gymnasts, USA Gymnastics announced last week, the facility holding too many horrific memories for too many US athletes.

Biles, who dazzled in winning gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics, said in her Twitter post last week revealing abuse by Nassar at the ranch that it “breaks my heart” to think of returning there to train for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman said continued use of the ranch as a national team center would be more evidence of indifference by USA Gymnastics.

USA Gymnastics also came under attack after it emerged that Olympic gold medallist McKayla Maroney had been required to sign a gag order preventing her from talking about the abuse under the terms of a $1.25 million settlement agreed in 2016.

USA Gymnastics later waived the order last week following criticism, saying Maroney would be free to discuss the abuse without fear of financial penalty.

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