The U.S. Olympic Committee said Monday that it was seeking to boot USA Gymnastics as the sport's governing body, a move long sought by critics of the organization's handling of the Larry Nassar molestation scandal.
"This is a situation in which there are no perfect solutions," Sarah Hirshland, chief executive of the Olympic committee, or USOC, said in a statement. "Seeking to revoke recognition is not a conclusion that we have come to easily."
USA Gymnastics has faced several lawsuits and revolving-door turnover among its leadership as the scope of the scandal has emerged. Nassar, the longtime team doctor, was sentenced in January to as long as 125 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to molesting 10 girls.
Steve Penny resigned as chief executive in March 2017, a week after the USOC called for his ouster; he is charged with felony tampering with evidence in the Nassar case. His replacement, Mary Bono, a former U.S. representative from California, resigned just a few days after taking the position following a controversial anti-Nike tweet about the former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
USA Gymnastics' board resigned en masse in January, and a new board was established in June. The new board said in a statement Monday that it "inherited an organization in crisis with significant challenges that were years in the making."
"Substantial work remains — in particular, working with the plaintiffs and USA Gymnastics' insurers to resolve the ongoing litigation as quickly as possible," it said. "We will continue to prioritize our athletes' health and safety and focus on acting in the best interests of the greater gymnastics community."
In an open letter to all gymnasts and the U.S. gymnastics community, Hirshland said Monday that USA Gymnastics "continues to struggle to change its culture, to rebuild its leadership and to effectively serve its membership."
"You deserve better," she wrote, adding that "the challenges facing the organization are simply more than it is capable of overcoming in its current form."
"Even weeks ago, I hoped there was a different way forward. But we now believe that is no longer possible," she said. She wrote that the USOC would make sure that training and competitions continued as usual.
"Young people will continue to participate, refine their techniques and have fun," Hirshland promised. "Our Team USA athletes will continue to inspire us through their incredible accomplishments. We will ensure support for the Olympic hopefuls who may represent us in Tokyo in 2020."
But attorneys for Olympic medalist Tasha Schwikert and her sister, former U.S. national team gymnast Jordan Schwikert, who sued the USOC and USA Gymnastics last week, dismissed the announcement.
"Today's announcement by USOC seeks only to deflect from their total failure over decades to protect the gymnasts in their care," the lawyers, Michelle Simpson Tuegel and Mo Aziz, said in a statement by email.
"In protecting and enabling Larry Nassar for so long, USAG and USOC failed in its core mission — which it claims is to empower athletes — and gave a known child abuser unfettered access to hundreds of victims," said the lawyers, who represent several U.S. gymnasts and college athletes who were allegedly abused by Nassar.