Steve Penny has resigned as USA Gymnastics President and chief executive in the face of mounting pressure at the organization regarding an ongoing sexual abuse scandal involving a former team doctor.
United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Board members “reached a consensus” on how to react to the scandal earlier this month, but did not reveal exactly what they proposed.
Former national team doctor Larry Nassar remains in jail awaiting trial on state charges of child sexual abuse, along with federal child pornography charges, as a probe which has already lasted eight months continues.
John Manly, a California attorney representing more than 40 women in a lawsuit against USA Gymnastics for failing to protect his clients, claimed that Nassar may have abused hundreds of women over more than two decades.
It is claimed the body did not fully report allegations of sexual misconduct made by female team members.
Reports had claimed the USOC Board members believed Penny should resign and the official has now made the decision to leave the organization.
“My primary objectives over the last 12 years as chief executive have been to raise the bar on how USA Gymnastics serves its athletes; to build relationships that provide resources to help the organisation and its membership flourish; and to build a team effort that brought the sport together around common goals,” said Penny.
“Among the most important priorities has been Safe Sport.
“We all care deeply about the safety of our athletes, which is fundamental to a rewarding experience at any level of gymnastics.
“It has been heart-breaking to learn of instances of abuse and it sickens me that young athletes would be exploited in such a manner.
“I applaud the United States Olympic Committee for creating a broad SafeSport platform that has brought new awareness to the importance of this issue and provided a robust solution for the National Governing Bodies to demonstrate their passion for athlete protection.
“The US Center for SafeSport establishes an important framework for every National Governing Body to strengthen its resolve against abuse, everyone associated with USA Gymnastics will benefit from this advancement.
“My decision to step aside as chief executive is solely to support the best interests of USA Gymnastics at this time.
“I want to thank everyone for their support over the years, especially those members who have provided thoughtful feedback as to how we could improve the organization.”
The USA Gymnastics Board of Directors confirmed they had accepted Steve Penny’s resignation, after he informed them of his decision to leave the organisation during a conference call.
It was claimed the call was originally scheduled to fill a Board vacancy and to consider amendments to the Bylaws pertaining to the U.S. Center for SafeSport.
USA Gymnastics stated the agenda was expanded after the USOC notified the organization of their Board of Directors meeting earlier in the month.
“The Board believes this change in leadership will help USA Gymnastics face its current challenges and implement solutions to move the organization forward in promoting a safe environment for its athletes at all levels,” said Paul Parilla, USA Gymnastics Board of Directors chairman.
“USA Gymnastics and the entire gymnastics community must work together to focus on keeping athletes safe.
“We believe Ms. [Deborah] Daniels’ recommendations will identify areas where we can strengthen and refine how we handle sexual misconduct as an organization, expand our efforts to educate the entire community, including parents and athletes, about what to watch for and what to do if they suspect abuse is happening.
“Everyone can be an active and vigilant participant for this to be effective, not only in gymnastics but also the Olympic movement as a whole.”
USA Gymnastics have stated the search for a President and chief executive will now commence, with Parilla set to lead their operations on an interim basis.
The Board also approved the amendments to their bylaws at the meeting, with an announcement of new Board members is expected to be announced shortly.
USA Gymnastics are awaiting the findings of an independent evaluation by former federal prosecutor Deborah Daniels, which is due to be completed this spring.
“Today’s announcement will hopefully allow USA Gymnastics to shift its attention to the future with a secure environment for its athletes and continued success in competition,” said USOC chair Larry Probst.
By Michael Pavitt
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.