Early last month the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) moved to decertify USA Gymnastics as a national governing body. In an open letter to all USAG gymnasts and the U.S. gymnastics community, CEO Sarah Hirshland said that the USOC will take over managing the gymnastics team.
“[E]veryone now faces the difficult reality of belonging to a national organization that continues to struggle to change its culture, to rebuild its leadership and to effectively serve its membership,” Hirshland wrote. “You deserve better.”
Hirshland was referring to several instances of the USAG’s moral ineptitude during and following the sentencing of former team doctor Larry Nassar, who was sentenced to 175 years in prison for sexually assaulting over 265 victims. Disgraced former USAG President Steve Penny resigned amid the fallout of the molestation scandal and was also arrested for tampering with evidence in the Nassar case. USAG CEO Kerry Perry was also forced out of her job in September in response to the years of sexual assault that led to the loss of key corporate sponsorship. Furthermore, her replacement Mary Bono stepped down only five days after being appointed after posting an Anti-Nike tweet about the company’s Colin Kaepernick ad.
In response to a tweet announcing the revocation of USAG’s status as a national governing body, Rachel Denhollander, the first gymnast to accuse Nassar of abuse, wrote, “THANK YOU… [I]t is high time for this organization to end and a new one, truly dedicated to athlete safety to begin. A COMPLETE regimen change should start now. This is for every survivor.”
Hirshland and Denhollander are both correct—the USAG gymnasts deserve better, and it’s about time that the proper action take place in creating a safe environment for the athletes. The USOC’s decision sends a clear message against abuse. As the USAG struggles to change its culture, starting anew under USOC management cannot erase the pain caused at the hands of Nassar and those who turned a blind eye to his abuse, but it represents a step toward rebuilding an organization that serves its members first and foremost. Though the path to follow USAG’s decertification is still unclear, the U.S. gymnastics community can expect a much-needed, long-awaited change for its future.
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