Or else what? The US Olympic Committee will decertify the disgraced USA Gymnastics unless all of its board members resign within six days, an action that will remove the organization from any involvement in official American participation in international competition. It’s a tough ultimatum, but might become moot regardless:
The U.S. Olympic Committee is demanding all USA Gymnastics board members resign over the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. More than 150 women and girls, including Olympic gymnasts, have accused the former doctor of abuse. @DrLaPook reports: https://t.co/CVkW1kDyY6 pic.twitter.com/2SBw4ZehHE
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 26, 2018
In the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal, the United States Olympic Committee has demanded that USA Gymnastics meet six conditions — including the resignation of its entire board by the end of next week — or else face decertification.
In a letter sent Thursday to the USAG board, USOC CEO Scott Blackmun outlined the demands for institutional reform.
“While the USOC encourages USAG to think and act broadly on reforming its culture, we also believe that reform must start with an entirely new board,” Blackmun wrote.
USA Gymnastics later released a statement agreeing in principle with USOC’s broader demands for reform, but avoided the issue of the board’s status:
“USA Gymnastics completely embraces the requirements outlined in the (letter),” the organization said in a statement after Blackmun’s letter. “Our commitment is uncompromising, and we hope everything we do makes this very clear.”
The board already forced out three of its officers earlier this week after they tried forcing athletes to return to Karolyi Ranch for their new sessions this month, a site where Larry Nassar molested many of his victims. (Another member resigned yesterday, stating that the current board is incapable of the kind of reform necessary.) This board hasn’t exactly been quick on the uptake. After a scandal of this magnitude and exposure, one might have expected them to have resigned on their own out of shame at their utter failure to protect the athletes under their care for decades. And yet here we are, with a potential death penalty for their group and the athletes demanding blood, and the board is still doing a Hamlet impersonation.
And still, it might not matter at all, because the US Olympic Committee might not be in a position to make that call for long. The athletes on whom Nassar preyed have turned their guns on both organizations, demanding accountability at all levels:
In an exclusive interview with the TODAY Show, two-time Olympian Aly Raisman criticized both organizations for allowing Nassar to practice without a medical license in Texas, the site of the U.S. national team camp and Olympic training center where many gymnasts were allegedly abused.
“What does that say about USA Gymnastics, [the] United States Olympic Committee? Whether they knew or didn’t know, that’s a big problem, and we need to investigate how this happened.”
Raisman demanded an independent investigation into both organizations for mishandling the Nassar scandal. “This is bigger than Larry Nassar,” she said. “We have to get to the bottom of how this disaster happened. If we don’t figure out how it did, we can’t be confident that it won’t happen again.”
Yesterday, the Senate began to look into the issue with a specific focus on both USAG and the USOC. It’s friendly enough, but Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) took care to remind the organizations that their authority only exists under grant from Congress:
This week, Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40+ years for sexually abusing over 150 young women. @SenBlumenthal & I are demanding answers from @USAGym, U.S. Olympic Committee & @michiganstateu regarding their systemic failures & their plans to protect athletes from sexual abuse. pic.twitter.com/Urmji202Wc
— Senator Jerry Moran (@JerryMoran) January 25, 2018
With that as context, this threat from the USOC looks like an attempt to throw USAG to the wolves in order to keep from getting eaten themselves. That doesn’t make USAG any more sympathetic; being thrown to the wolves is probably the correct outcome for them. That would create an opportunity for the sport of gymnastics to start fresh, preferably with leadership that includes some of the athletes who got victimized Nassar and the USAG. However, that doesn’t mean that the USOC deserves to remain in business under its current structure, either.
“Or else” should be coming for everyone who let this situation continue for 20-plus years, putting trophies above the athletes who earned them. In a society with a more rational appreciation of appropriate shame within organizations, we wouldn’t have to demand this kind of accountability.