The chairman of the U.S. Senate finance committee has given the U.S. Olympic Committee a May 10 deadline to explain why it has halted efforts to strip USA Gymnastics of its national governing body status, saying the USOCs handling of the decertification has raised serious questions, according to a letter obtained by the Southern California News Group.
In a letter to USOC chief executive officer Sarah Hirshland Tuesday, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote that it was “unclear” and “perplexing” why the USOC has stopped the decertification process.
In the wake of the Larry Nassar and USA Swimming sexual abuse scandals, the USOC, USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming, the U.S. Center for SafeSport and other national governing bodies have come under increasing Congressional scrutiny for their enabling a culture of sexual abuse within American Olympic sports and prioritizing medals, image and corporate sponsorships over the safety of young athletes.
The USOC, in response to pressure from Capitol Hill and former Olympians, began what is known as a Section 8 procedure against USA Gymnastics that would strip the organization of its NGB status.
In a letter announcing the move, Hirshland told the gymnastics community “you deserve better.”
“Everyone now faces the difficult reality of belonging to a national organization that continues to struggle to change its culture, to rebuild its leadership and to effectively serve its membership,” Hirshland also wrote in the letter.
But in a Feb. 4 letter to Grassleys office, Hirshland wrote that the USOC was putting a halt to “decertification proceedings” because of USA Gymnastics Chapter 11 proceedings in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of Indiana.
“Out of respect for the independence of the hearing panel and in deference to the bankruptcy court handling that proceeding, the Olympic Committee is not asking the panel to take an action at this time, but the Olympic Committee continues to monitor developments with respect to USA Gymnastics and reserved the right to request that the bankruptcy court permit the hearing panel to resume its work,” Hirshland wrote. “With the revocation proceeding currently stayed, the Olympic Committee continues to work with USA Gymnastics to support the protection of athletes and the athletes training for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.”
Grassleys letter this week was prompted in part by an SCNG report last November shortly after Hirshland announced the USOCs intention to begin decertification proceedings. In an email to USA Gymnastics athletes and coaches obtained by SCNG, Tim Forster, USA Gymnastics high performance national team coordinator, wrote of the USOC move “I believe this to be a strategic move on their part to appease our critics and congress for the perceived lack of progress we have made as an organization to solve our public image problems. If the USOC takes on the task of managing our HP Teams USA Gymnastics will still be facing the challenges of litigation from the survivors.”
Forster also boasted in the email “…the point is the USOC will struggle to manage what we have established over the past forty years.”
In the opening of the letter to Hirshland, Grassley wrote “According to news reports, an ex-official at USA Gymnastics, Tom Forster, stated that the U.S. Olympic Committees (USOC) bid to decertify USA Gymnastics was a strategic move designed to appease critics and congress for the perceived lack of progress [USA Gymnastics] has made as an organization to solve [its] public image problems.
“If true, this raises serious questions as to the motives behind the USOCs recent attempt at decertification. Congress granted the USOC the power to certify and decertify all National Governing Bodies (NGB) for each Olympic sport, such as USA Gymnastics. Under Section 8 of its bylaws, the USOC describes the process by which USOC may revoke the status of any NGB for non-compliance or other deficiencies.The revocation process calls for a hearing panel to be established, a hearing to be held, a report issued, and a vote by the USOC board on a final determination.”
Grassleys frustration with the USOC was clear as he listed a series of questions for Hirshland to answer.
“It remains unclear why USOC halted decertification proceedings out of deference to the bankruptcy court despite USA Gymnastics own admission that the filing was not financially motivated,” Grassley wrote. “Its also unclear why USOC would halt proceedings after issuing such a strongly worded press release declaring, [s]eeking to revoke recognition is not a decision that we have come to easily, but I believe it is the right action. Above all, it is perplexing that you would halt these vital proceedings after informing the athletic community that you deserve better in reference to USA Gymnastics. To better determine why USOC chose to abruptly change course on its initial decision to decertify USA Gymnastics, please answer the following questions no later than May 10, 2019:
“*1. Is it USOCs opinion that the bankruptcy filing prevents further action on decertification? If so, how?
*2. Was the decertification of USA Gymnastics “strategic”?
3. If USA Gymnastics is not struggling financially, and its bankruptcy filing was purely organizational, then why has USOC halted its decertification of USA Gymnastics?
4. By the time the bankruptcy proceedings end, the 2020 Olympics would likely be only a few months away. Does USOC plan on proceeding with decertification of USA Gymnastics on the eve of the Olympic Games?
5. If you claimed that athletes deserve better tRead More – Source