The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) took the first step Monday that could lead to decertifying USA Gymnastics and revoking the organization’s status as America’s representative for gymnasts in national and international competition.
Gymnasts – including Olympian Aly Raisman – have called on the USOC to take action against USA Gymnastics in the wake of repeated scandals following revelations that it failed to act on initial reports of sexual abuse by team doctor Larry Nassar. TIME reported last week on what it would take to decertify USA Gymnastics.
Sarah Hirshland, chief executive officer of the USOC, filed a complaint about USA Gymnastics to the USOC board. Once a complaint is brought to the USOC board, a hearing will be held including, in this case, members of USA Gymnastics and the athletes’ advisory council. The panel would then make a recommendation about whether to revoke recognition as gymnastics’ governing body. If another organization were to come forward to be recognized by the USOC, it would need a different name and would have to adhere to the bylaws of the USOC and start to gain membership of local gyms. If an alternate organization is not available to take over for USA Gymnastics, then gymnasts would temporarily compete under the umbrella of the USOC.
“I believe this is a significant step forward that is necessary for the overall health and well-being of the sport and its athletes,” Raisman tweeted in response to USOC’s action. “There are so many amazing, talented and kind-hearted people in this sport, and it’s time for them to lead us into the future!”
In an open letter to the gymnastics community, Hirshland did not provide a timeline for how long the process would take, but the current gymnastics season is on hiatus after the world championships last week in Doho, Qatar. The U.S. women won the team title and Simone Biles earned a record fourth world championship gold in the individual all-around event.
Hirshland’s decision was prompted by an ongoing sexual abuse scandal at USA Gymnastics involving Nassar, who is serving up to 175 years in prison on sexual abuse charges. According to documents obtained by the Indianapolis Star, USA Gymnastics was alerted to Nassar’s abuse, which gymnasts say occurred at national training camps and at international competitions, but did not act in a timely manner to remove Nassar from his position.
There is also evidence that members of USA Gymnastics worked to devise a cover story to explain Nassar’s absence when he was finally asked not to attend competitions in 2015.
USA Gymnastics said it was “carefully reviewing” the complaint made by the USOC – and said the current board “inherited an organization in crisis with significant challenges that were years in the making.”
Read USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland’s letter to the gymnastics community in its entirety: