May 24, 2018
In The News

USA Gymnastics CEO Kerry Perry Testifies to Congress on Athlete Sex Abuse

The head of USA Gymnastics and other Olympic organizations went up against Congress on Wednesday in the aftermath of the sexual abuse scandal involving former Dr. Larry Nassar that rocked the sports industry, facing tough questions and criticism on their responsibility for the crimes of the past and what they are doing to prevent abuse going forward.

USAG President and CEO Kerry Perry promised that her organization is "on a new path, with new leadership, and a commitment to ensure this never happens again."

She said she was "appalled and sickened by the despicable crimes of Larry Nassar" and assured that his victims' stories will be "at the core of every decision I make every day."

"We must do better," Perry said, speaking publicly about athlete abuse for the first time since taking over USAG in December 2017.

Leadership of USAG has been completely turned over in light of the more than 200 gymnasts who have testified to being sexually abused by Nassar, the team doctor now in prison for child pornography and sexual assault. Some gymnasts have called out USAG, as well as the U.S. Olympic Committee, for inaction in pursuing the cases regarding Nassar.

The acting CEO of the USOC, Susanne Lyons, said she was "deeply saddened and angry" to hear the stories of the many athletes who claimed they were abused. She added that the Olympic community "failed the people it was supposed to protect."

"I know we can do better," she told the committee. "We will do better."

Lyons outlined the changes USOC has made, including the doubling of funding to the U.S. Center for SafeSport (to $3.1 million a year), which was created by the USOC as an independent organization to investigate abuse cases in Olympic sports. It opened in March 2017 but has been overwhelmed by the number of cases that have come its way since it became the central clearinghouse for athletes in Olympic sports to bring their complaints. That organization's CEO, Shellie Pfohl, testified Wednesday as well.

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Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Calif., said that as a mom of four kids who play local sports, this was "a difficult hearing topic." She expressed concern that her kids and their teammates "could have been coached by someone who had a history of misconduct," pointing to the fact that lists of banned or suspended individuals have not always been public.

Walters asked Lyons if she would support a decision to require all Olympic governing bodies to make lists of sanctioned individuals available to the public. Lyons agreed that was a necessary step.

Congress has the ultimate authority over the USOC through the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act. There's some thought that reopening the act to clarify the relationship between the USOC and the governing bodies of Olympic sports would be worthwhile.

USA Volleyball CEO Jamie Davis said his organization has "long considered safety of our athletes to be a top priority" and that "many years ago, we recognized protecting our athletes and members as the right thing to do.

He spoke of the case of Rick Butler, a top youth coach who was accused of abusing at least six underage players. Butler had received a lifetime ban from volleyball in 1995, but Butler later requested the decision be rescinded. The rule was partially reversed in 2000 and Butler was allowed back into the sport. He was let go for good in January 2018.

Read more at NBC Los Angeles:  https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/politics/USA-Gymnastics-CEO-Kerry-Perry-House-Hearing-Athlete-Sex-Abuse-483453091.html