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USA Gymnastics CEO apologizes, outlines changes made to address Nassar abuse scandal

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 5/23/2018 Rachel Axon
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WASHINGTON – In testimony she will give before a House subcommittee on Wednesday, USA Gymnastics CEO Kerry Perry confirmed the organization is in mediation talks with women and girls who have sued the national governing body.

Perry wrote that USA Gymnastics is “participating in mediation in order to resolve the athletes’ claims fairly and expeditiously.” She wrote that USA Gymnastics will participate further in mediation in August and hopes that the U.S. Olympic Committee will join those talks. She did not specify how many athletes were involved in mediation talks. 

Perry will testify on Wednesday in a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, “Examining the Olympic Community’s Ability to Protect Athletes from Sexual Abuse.” It will be her first public comments since she took her position at USA Gymnastics in December.

The national governing body, which has been embroiled in scandal for nearly two years for its handling of sexual abuse, declined to participate in a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in March 2017.

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Also set to testify on Wednesday are: acting USOC CEO Susanne Lyons, U.S. Center for SafeSport CEO Shellie Pfohl, USA Taekwondo executive director Steve McNally, USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey and USA Volleyball CEO Jamie Davis.

Committee chairman Gregg Harper, R-Miss., said he will focus his questioning on the USOC.

“At the end of the day, my objective here is to make sure we’re doing everything that we can do to eliminate these bad actors and make sure that it’s understood that even one case is unacceptable. A true zero tolerance should be everybody’s position in this,” Harper said.

“We will be firm that this is not going to be allowed to continue. I wish we could go wind the clock back and help these entities that failed to investigate have a different culture. But I think we’re seeing a sea change in the culture, particularly I think the U.S. Olympic Committee is taking it very seriously.”

Perry’s opening statement was released by the subcommittee on Tuesday. In it, she apologized to the victims of Larry Nassar.

Hundreds of women have accused the longtime USA Gymnastics team doctor of abusing them under the guise of medical treatment. Olympic champions Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney and Jordyn Wieber also have said Nassar abused them.

Nassar, 54, is serving a 60-year federal sentence for child pornography charges. He was convicted of 10 counts of sexual assault in Michigan and faces a minimum of 40 years in prison after his federal sentence is over.

Michigan State, where Nassar was a physician, last week settled its lawsuits with more than 300 women for $500 million.

In her statement, Perry apologized for those harmed by Nassar, adding that she heard many of them give statements during his sentencing.

“I commit to you that I will keep their words and experiences at the core of every decision I make, every day, as the leader of this organization,” she wrote in her testimony.

The majority of Perry’s statement looked forward at changes she had made rather than at USA Gymnastics’ accountability for its past actions regarding Nassar.

Perry said USA Gymnastics is working on implementing all of the recommended changes from former federal prosecutor Deborah Daniels. In a review released in June, Daniels said USA Gymnastics needed a "complete cultural change" after not doing enough to educate its staff, members and athletes about protecting children from sexual abuse and failing to ensure that safeguards were being followed.

Perry wrote that USA Gymnastics had implemented 80% of the recommendations so far.

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