By Jonathan Allen and David Shepardson
(Reuters) - The remaining directors of the U.S. gymnastics governing body are resigning in the wake of this week’s sentencing of the former national team doctor for molesting female athletes, USA Gymnastics said on Friday, complying with a demand by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
The doctor, Larry Nassar, was sentenced on Wednesday to between 40 and 175 years in prison by a judge in Lansing, Michigan, following a week of blistering statements in court by his victims including Olympic gold medal-winning gymnasts Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber and other female athletes. He had pleaded guilty to sexual assault charges.
The USOC had threatened to strip USA Gymnastics of its power to run its sport if all 21 board directors had not resigned by next Wednesday. At least five members already had said they had resigned as a result of the scandal.
"USA Gymnastics will comply with the USOC requirements," Leslie King, a spokeswoman for USA Gymnastics, said in an email.
The senior sports official at Michigan State University, where Nassar previously worked, retired on Friday. The departure of Athletic Director Mark Hollis came two days after university President Lou Anna Simon stepped down under pressure. Both said they were unaware of Nassar’s abuse until public reports.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, whose office prosecuted Nassar, confirmed on Twitter that the office is investigating the university.
The national outcry over Nassar has prompted the U.S. House of Representatives, Senate, the Department of Education and the USOC to announce further investigations this week.
Those investigations seek to establish if other sports officials turned a blind eye to Nassar’s abuses. The House investigation will also examine allegations of sexual harassment by officials in other sports, including swimming and taekwondo.
Raisman vowed to keep the pressure on sports organizations, to see who else knew about Nassar’s abuse. Nassar worked for the federation through four Olympic Games, but the allegations did not become public until 2016 in an investigative report by the Indianapolis Star.
"Everyone stood up for him," Raisman told the ABC program "The View." "My work, and the army of survivors, we’re not done yet. We still have to hold these organizations accountable."
"My heart breaks for the survivors of Larry Nassar’s disgusting crimes," said U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whose department will investigate the role of Michigan State. "What happened at Michigan State is abhorrent."
The USOC’s investigation into how Nassar was able to abuse victims for years will include looking at whether any USOC officials themselves looked the other way.
Nassar, 54, was sentenced for sexually assaulting girls under the guise of medical treatment. More than 150 accusers recounted their stories in the courtroom.
USOC Chief Executive Officer Scott Blackmun called on Thursday for the full USA Gymnastics board to resign with a new interim board named by the end of February. He outlined six reform steps the gymnastics governing body must take.
Dick Pound, a Canadian member of the International Olympic Committee, said he may raise the Nassar abuse scandal at next week’s IOC session in South Korea, comparing it to revelations of Russia manipulating doping tests to conceal its athletes’ use of banned drugs in an elaborate cheating program. Russia was formally barred from the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea though some Russian athletes will be permitted to compete.
"I don’t see this as anything of the level of saying, ‘We are going to suspend or expel your entire national Olympic committee,'" Pound said in a telephone interview, saying the removal of the gymnastics board may be enough to satisfy the IOC.
In Washington, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee, in announcing its investigation, said sports organizations "must have mechanisms in place to ensure complete oversight and prevent such abuses from occurring."
The House next week is due to vote on legislation passed by the Senate in November that would require amateur athletics governing bodies to report sex-abuse allegations immediately to law enforcement or a child welfare agency.
Published under: Betsy DeVos , Crime , Department of Education , Sports