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USA Gymnastics Opens 'Independent Review' on Sex Abuse Scandal

The organization has been named in two recent lawsuits.
Image: 2016 Rio Olympics - Artistic Gymnastics - Women's Individual All-Around Final

USA Gymnastics, the national governing body for the sport, has hired an attorney to lead an "independent review" of its handling of sexual abuse cases amid allegations it turned a blind eye to misconduct.

The organization, which selects gymnasts for the Olympics and World Championships teams, has been named in two recent lawsuits filed by ex-athletes who allege they were molested by former team doctor Larry Nassar.

In addition, an investigation by the Indianapolis Star newspaper in August reported that top USA Gymnastics executives repeatedly failed to tell authorities about sexual abuse accusations against coaches.

At the time, USA Gymnastics called the newspaper report "one-sided and anchored in a mischaracterization" of its approach to sexual misconduct, saying it "takes action" when it suspects abuse.

USA Gymnastics has also defended its handling of the Nassar matter, saying it fired him and reported "athlete concerns" to the FBI in 2015.

Since then, at least two dozen complaints of sexual abuse have been lodged against Nassar, who denies wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime. The accusations date back as far as 1999.

A former Olympian sued Nassar and USA Gymnastics in September, and another former elite gymnast filed suit last month, saying she was molested by the doctor at the national training center operated by famed coaches Bela and Marta Karolyi.

In a statement posted to its website Thursday, USA Gymnastics said it has now tapped Indianapolis-based attorney Deborah Daniels, a former federal prosecutor, to spearhead what it called an "independent review" of bylaws, policies and procedures related to sexual abuse.

"Daniels will consult with a variety of experts and organizations representing law enforcement, child welfare, the gymnastics community, state and local officials, and others, and a final recommendation will be provided to the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors," the statement said.

John Manly, the attorney representing the two former gymnasts who have sued Nassar and USA Gymnastics, called the move "a classic public relations scheme."

"Institutions who investigate themselves rarely find anything wrong. An 'independent investigation' that depends on the voluntary cooperation of the institution being investigated is neither independent and is not a real investigation," he said.

"USA Gymnastics should leave the investigating to the FBI, the Michigan Attorney General, Texas law enforcement and the Courts. The fact that they don't want to do that tells us everything we need to know about their real motivation."