Coach who defended Nassar parts ways with USA Gymnastics
DENVER (AP) — Not a month into her new job as CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Sarah Hirshland has seen enough from USA Gymnastics. She’s calling for yet another shake-up in the federation’s leadership as it tries to remake itself in the wake of the Larry Nassar sex-abuse scandal.
Hirshland sent out a statement Friday night calling for changes in the USA Gymnastics leadership, only hours after the federation awkwardly fired the coach it had hired only three days earlier as its elite program coordinator. The coach, Mary Lee Tracy, was an early supporter of Nassar when allegations against him began to surface. Then, without permission this week, Tracy reached out to one of her fiercest critics, gold-medalist Aly Raisman, who is suing USAG.
“As we close the day, I’m afraid I can offer nothing but disappointment,” Hirshland said. “Under the circumstances, we feel that the organization is struggling to manage its obligations effectively and it is time to consider making adjustments in the leadership.”
She said the USOC would be reaching out to the USAG board over the weekend to discuss changes.
That likely spells trouble for Kerry Perry, who took over for Steve Penny as president of USA Gymnastics in November 2017. Perry has made very few public statements, and has had trouble gathering support in the gymnastics community, since taking over as part of a USOC-directed turnover of the federation’s board and senior management.
USAG officials did not immediately return messages left by The Associated Press seeking comment.
Two weekends ago at national championships, Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, a Nassar abuse victim herself, withheld judgment on the path USA Gymnastics has taken, saying “nobody can know until Kerry Perry speaks up. It’s kind of hard.”
Perry did speak up later that weekend, saying all but a few of the 70 recommendations suggested by an independent review of the federation’s actions had been implemented.
Much of that progress has been overshadowed by a steady stream of new allegations against Nassar and missteps by USA Gymnastics.
Tracy’s hiring certainly had the look of an unforced error.
She was on record as having supported Nassar in 2016, when allegations began surfacing.
As soon as Tracy was hired, Raisman, who has emerged as one of USA Gymnastics’ most vocal critics, called it “a slap in the face for survivors, and further proof that nothing at USAG has changed.”
Shortly after that, Tracy reached out to Raisman to apologize and talk about the future.
But USAG didn’t approve of that, and released a statement Friday afternoon saying Tracy had inappropriately contacted the gymnast, and had to ask for Tracy’s resignation.
The call by Hirshland comes as the USOC itself is under the microscope for its own handling of sex-abuse allegations.
She took over for Scott Blackmun, who resigned as CEO in February due to health problems, while calls for his ouster were increasing for what critics said was the USOC’s own slow reaction and unwillingness to take responsibility for abuse in Olympic sports.