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May 31 2017

USA Gymnastics president steps down over sex abuse scandal

Steve Penny, the president and chief executive of USA Gymnastics, resigned after the organization came under fire for the way it has handled sex abuse cases against officials and coaches.

Over the years, the Olympic sports organization has been severely criticized by former gymnasts and members of Congress for its inaction over sexual abuse allegations. In particular, Penny faced intense pressure over the handling of accusations against Larry Nassar. Nassar is a former doctor for the USA Gymnastics national women’s team who worked full time at Michigan State University for almost 30 years.

Nassar was accused of sexually assaulting girls and women during routine examinations as well as groping and fondling gymnasts as teenagers. He has been charged with over 20 counts of sexual assault since September and has denied all the charges he faces in both the state and federal system. Nassar is being held without bail in Michigan after his arrest for child pornography in November last year.

More than 60 women have filed lawsuits against USA Gymnastics and Michigan State alleging their negligence permitted Nassar’s abuse to continue. One woman said supervisors did not fire Nassar until 2015 even though she had voiced concerns about his conduct to Michigan State in 2014. Penny eventually reported him to federal authorities.

Besides Penny, some lawsuits have named former USA Gymnastics national team coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi as codefendants. They were accused of creating a culture of abuse that enabled Nassar to take advantage of young athletes. According to court documents, they allegedly “had knowledge of inappropriate conduct and molestations committed by [Nassar] before and during his employment, yet chose to allow him to remain unsupervised where he sexually abused plaintiff.”