USA Gymnastics board of directors to resign under pressure

Larry Nassar arrives at court Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, for the first day of victim impact statements in Circuit Court Rosemarie Aquilina’s courtroom in Lansing, Mich. Flanking Nassar are his attorneys Matt Newburg and Shannon Smith. Nassar pleaded guilty to molesting females with his hands at his Michigan State University office, his home and a Lansing-area gymnastics club. (Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal via AP)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The remaining members of the USA Gymnastics board of directors will resign under pressure from the United States Olympic Committee after the USOC threatened to decertify the organization if it didn’t take more strident steps toward change amid the fallout from the scandal surrounding former team doctor Larry Nassar.

The executive board, including chairman Paul Parilla, resigned Monday. USA Gymnastics announced Friday that the remaining 18 board members, who are unpaid volunteers representing various threads of the sport across the country, will leave their positions. The announcement came two days after an open letter from USOC chief operating officer Scott Blackmun called for a “full turnover of leadership.”

USA Gymnastics said in a statement Friday it will comply with the USOC’s wishes.

“USA Gymnastics supports the United States Olympic Committee’s letter and accepts the absolute need of the Olympic family to promote a safe environment for all of our athletes,” the organization wrote in a statement. “We agree with the USOC’s statement that the interests of our athletes and clubs, and their sport, may be better served by moving forward with meaningful change within our organization, rather than decertification.”

One of the crown jewels of the U.S. Olympic movement is reeling following Nassar’s downfall. The longtime team doctor, who spent more than 20 years with the organization before leaving in 2015, was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison Wednesday for molesting seven women. Part of the sentencing process included over 100 victim’s impact statements read into the record, several of them high-profile Olympians like six-time medalist Aly Raisman, 2011 world champion and 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber and two-time Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney.

The sentencing hearing that allowed the young women to give a face and a voice to their abuse to millions of television viewers did what nearly 18 months of lawsuits and admissions by some of the most high-profile gymnasts in the country could not: move the needle enough to spur significant action.

USA Gymnastics did force out former president Steve Penny last spring and hired Kerry Perry in November as his replacement. The rest of the power structure, however, remained intact. Rachael Denhollander, the first person to come forward as Nassar victim in the fall of 2016, asked the board’s executive officers to resign last August. Raisman talked repeatedly about the need for a complete organizational overhaul after outlining the abuse Nassar subjected her to in her book released in November. Olympic champion Simone Biles came forward as Nassar victim on Jan. 15 and wondered why she had to continue to train at the Karolyi Ranch in Texas, a place where she said Nassar abused her earlier in her career.

USA Gymnastics announced shortly after Biles’ critique it was ending its long relationship with the Karolyi Ranch. The board’s executive officers stepped down on Monday and the rest of the group will now follow suit.

“USA Gymnastics supports an independent investigation that may shine light on how abuse of the proportion described so courageously by the survivors of Larry Nassar could have gone undetected for so long and embraces any necessary and appropriate changes,” the organization wrote. “USA Gymnastics and the USOC have the same goal — making the sport of gymnastics, and others, as safe as possible for athletes to follow their dreams in a safe, positive and empowered environment.”

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