WASHINGTON – Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) today applauded the recent decision by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) CEO Sarah Hirshland to essentially shut down USA Gymnastics following the way the organization botched the handling of Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics doctor who sexually assaulted hundreds of young women athletes who were in his care.  

“Like many Americans, I remain horrified about the crimes committed by Larry Nassar, the USA Gymnastics doctor who abused hundreds of young athletes. The actions of Larry Nassar and the individuals and institutions that facilitated and protected his behavior are reprehensible.  Senator Shaheen and I called on the former USOC CEO Scott Blackmun to resign earlier this year, to start the process of holding Olympic leadership accountable for fostering a culture that prioritized winning medals over the welfare of young athletes.  I am glad to see that USOC’s current CEO, Sarah Hirshland, is taking action to start rebuilding trust with our country’s athletes and the American people. I also want to applaud the young women who have – and continue – to make their voices heard, calling for change and a new vision for the sport,” said Senator Ernst.

Background:

The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) filed a complaint against USA Gymnastics on November 5, 2018, seeking to revoke their recognition as a governing body of the USOC, following the way the organization improperly handled the sex abuse scandal involving the former team doctor, Larry Nassar.  USA Gymnastics former CEO, Steve Penny, is named as a co-defendant in several civil lawsuits filed by former elite gymnasts and was arrested last month and charged with destroying or hiding documents related to Nassar’s abuses.  Since Penny, USA Gymnastics was governed by Kerry Perry, who resigned after about nine months and was criticized heavily by Olympic medalists for failing to support athletes and offer a clear vision on a way forward for USA Gymnastics.  USA Gymnastics was also briefly led by former U.S. Rep. Mary Bono. The organization is currently searching for its fourth president and CEO in less than two years.

The USOC initiated a Section 8 proceeding against USA Gymnastics and is working to find an organization who can support gymnastics until they can identify a long-term solution to lead the country’s gymnastics.  USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland, who is seeking to revoke USA Gymnastics as the governing body of the athletes, has said she is prepared to identify and help build an organization to “ensure that USAG gymnasts have the support necessary to excel on and off the field of play.”