U.S. Olympic Committee takes step to dismantle USA Gymnastics

The United States Olympic Committee might be ready to tear it all down in the aftermath of the Larry Nassar scandal. (Getty Images)
The United States Olympic Committee might be ready to tear it all down in the aftermath of the Larry Nassar scandal. (Getty Images)

Two years after the details of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse started to come out, it looks like Team USA has decided it wants to tear down the entire framework of its gymnastics team.

The United States Olympic Committee released a statement from CEO Sarah Hirshland on Monday announcing that it is has filed a complaint seeking to revoke the recognition of USA Gymnastics as the national governing body for the sport.

Team USA makes move to tear down USA Gymnastics

The full statement from the U.S. Olympic Committee:

“Today the United States Olympic Committee has filed a complaint initiating a Section 8 proceeding against USA Gymnastics, seeking to revoke USAG’s recognition as a member National Governing Body of the USOC. This is a situation in which there are no perfect solutions. Seeking to revoke recognition is not a conclusion that we have come to easily. In the short-term, we have to work to ensure that USAG gymnasts have the support necessary to excel on and off the field of play. We are building plans to do just that. In the long-term, it will be the critically important responsibility of the recognized Gymnastics NGB, whether the existing organization or a new one, to lead gymnastics in the United States and build on the supportive community of athletes and clubs that can carry the sport forward for decades to come. We are prepared to identify and help build such an organization.”

The statement leaves some room open for what could happen to USA Gymnastics, but the intent is clear.

Less than two years away from the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Team USA is apparently willing to tear down its entire gymnastics program. Such a move is obviously a drastic step to take, but it should be understandable for many who have followed USA Gymnastics’ handling of one of the worst scandals in the history of American sports.

Why is Team USA doing this now?

Even going beyond the officials who directly mishandled Nassar’s repeated abuse of hundreds of young gymnasts, USA Gymnastics has flailed in the fallout of the scandal. Multiple CEOs have had to resign, lawsuits have come in from several gymnasts and damning information regarding the handling of Nassar has continued to drip out.

Recently, Aly Raisman, arguably the face of the movement against USA Gymnastics, summed up the situation by saying the organization has treated the Nassar more as a public relations problem than a child-abuse problem.

Hirshland alluded to all of those issues in an open letter to Team USA’s gymnasts released with the statement, saying the challenges faces USA Gymnastics are simply too much for the organization to handle in its current state.

You might be asking why now? The short answer is that we believe the challenges facing the organization are simply more than it is capable of overcoming in its current form. We have worked closely with the new USAG board over recent months to support them, but despite diligent effort, the NGB continues to struggle. And that’s not fair to gymnasts around the country. Even weeks ago, I hoped there was a different way forward. But we now believe that is no longer possible.

What’s next for USA Gymnastics?

The letter notes that the revocation process “does not guarantee a particular outcome.” It then outlines the basic process the USOC and USAG will soon go through:

Strictly speaking, there is a process that must be followed based on the USOC Bylaws that lay out how we recognize, and revoke recognition, for an NGB. We have filed a complaint. A review panel will be identified, a hearing will be held, a report will be issued and a recommendation will be made. Then the USOC board will vote to continue to recognize USAG, or to revoke that status.

No timeline is mentioned in the letter.

If USA Gymnastics’ credentials are indeed revoked, a new organization governing gymnastics in the United States would be created from the ground up, though you’d imagine plenty of staffers from the current USA Gymnastics would be carried over.

USA Gymnastics to responds to Team USA

The USA Gymnastics board of directors released a statement immediately following the one from the USOC, confirming the move is allowable within its bylaws.

The statement then attempts to outline what the board feels the organization has done correctly since it took over in June 2018:

USA Gymnastics’ board was seated in June 2018 and inherited an organization in crisis with significant challenges that were years in the making. In the four months since, the Board has done everything it could to move this organization towards a better future. We immediately took steps to change the leadership and are currently conducting a search to find a CEO who can rebuild the organization and, most importantly, regain the trust of the gymnastics community. Substantial work remains — in particular, working with the plaintiffs and USA Gymnastics’ insurers to resolve the ongoing litigation as quickly as possible. We will continue to prioritize our athletes’ health and safety and focus on acting in the best interests of the greater gymnastics community.”

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