U.S. Olympic officials have called for the resignations of all directors of USA Gymnastics, the organization that selects and trains Olympic gymnasts.
The demand came Wednesday, the same day former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for molesting more than 150 women and girls. Among Nassar’s victims were several American gymnasts who won Olympic medals.
In an open letter, the head of the U.S. Olympic Committee, or USOC, Scott Blackmun, first apologized to all victims for having suffered as part of the “tragedy” of abuse. He said the USOC was sorry for the “pain caused by this terrible man.” In addition, he admitted that gymnasts “were not provided a safe” environment to seek their sports dreams.
Blackmun said the scandal showed the culture of the sport must change, and new leadership was required. The USOC has demanded that all current USA Gymnastics directors resign. USA Gymnastics announced earlier this week that three board members had stepped down. But Blackmun said all 18 remaining directors must also resign.
The USOC letter also said it had decided to launch its own independent investigation “to examine how an abuse of this proportion” could have gone undiscovered for so long.
In another reaction to the scandal, Michigan State University - where Nasser worked as a doctor - announced President Lou Anna Simon’s resignation. There had been growing pressure for Simon to step down in recent months. Many victims accused the university of mishandling the accusations about Nassar.
In her resignation letter, Simon said as tragedies are politicized, blame is often the result. She said she understood that as president, she was a natural center of the anger.
After sentencing Nassar in a Michigan court for up to 175 years, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina said, “I just signed your death warrant.” She added: “You do not deserve to walk outside a prison ever again. You're a danger, you remain a danger.”
The 54-year-old Nassar had already been serving a 60-year prison term on federal child pornography charges. He faces another sentencing hearing later this month on three more criminal sexual charges.
Olympians speaking out
In court, the judge had allowed more than 150 women and girls to describe their abuse experiences involving Nassar.
One of them was U.S. Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman. “You lied to me and manipulated me…” Raisman said in a statement directed at Nassar. "I am also here to tell you to your face Larry: That you have not taken gymnastics away from me. I love this sport,” she added. “And that love is stronger than the evil that resides in you, and those who enabled you to hurt many people.”
Another Olympic gold medalist, Jordyn Wieber, said even though she is one of his victims, “I do not, and will not, live my life as one. I’m an Olympian.”
Gold medalist Simone Biles came forward as one of Nassar’s victims on Twitter earlier this month. In the post, she said she refuses to let the “horrific” experience define her. “I have promised myself that my story will be much greater than this and I promise all of you that I will never give up. I will compete with all my heart and soul every time I step in the gym.”
On Wednesday, Biles praised Judge Aquilina for the way she handled the trial and sentencing. “Thank you, you are my Hero,” she tweeted. Speaking to the other survivors of Nassar’s abuse, she added: “He will no longer have the power to steal our happiness or joy. I stand with every one of you.”
Nassar remained silent and showed no emotion during the sentencing hearing. At one point he did read a short statement, at times turning around to face victims seated in the courtroom. He said the victims' statements had “shaken me to my core” and that “no words” could describe how sorry he was. “I will carry your words with me for the rest of my days,” he said.
Although Nassar's work with gymnasts received the most attention, the accusations against him happened with athletes in several other sports over a period of 25 years.
Former gymnast Rachel Denhollander was the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar. She says he molested her when she was 15 years old.
The sexual abuse involving Nassar – as well as USA Gymnastics coaches - was first made public in 2016 in a series of reports published by The Indianapolis Star. After a major investigation, the newspaper reported that USA Gymnastics repeatedly failed to report accusations of abuse.
I’m Bryan Lynn.
Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from VOA News, Reuters, the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in This Story
molest – v. to harm through sexual contact; to touch someone in a sexual and improper way
scandal – n. an occurrence in which people are shocked or upset because of behavior that is morally or legally wrong
proportion – n. an amount that is a part of a whole
deserve – v. used to say that someone or something should or should not have or be given something
pornography – n. movies, pictures, magazines, etc., that show or describe naked people or sex in a very open and direct way in order to cause sexual excitement
manipulate – v. to deal with or control someone or something, usually in an unfair or selfish way
core – n. the central part of something
athlete – n. a person who is trained in and participates in sports
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