Steve Penny steps down as president of USA Gymnastics

David Eggert  AP

The president of USA Gymnastics resigned on Thursday after the sport governing body's board criticized his handling of alleged sexual abuse of young athletes.

Asked why the USOC wanted Penny out while other heads of federations with abuse scandals had been allowed to stay on, Blackmun said, "The whole subject of sexual assault and safe sport has obviously been getting a significant amount of increased coverage".

"We all care deeply about the safety of our athletes, which is fundamental to a rewarding experience at any level of gymnastics", Penny said in a statement.

"The Board believes this change in leadership will help USA Gymnastics face its current challenges and implement solutions to move the organization forward in promoting a safe environment for its athletes at all levels", the organization said in a statement posted on its website. He said he's stepping aside "solely to support the best interests of USA Gymnastics".

Parilla will lead the search for Penny's replacement and "guide the organization's operations and move forward the initiatives now in progress to strengthen and refine its policies and procedures for handling sexual misconduct".

Steve Penny served as president of USA Gymnastics since 2005.

The pressure to enforce institutional changes comes after the startling news that USA Gymnastics informed the Federal Bureau of Investigation of sexual abuse allegations against Dr. Larry Nassar, a longtime national team physician, five weeks after top gymnastics officials were first alerted to suspicions about him.

The Indianapolis Star newspaper claims "at least" 368 American gymnasts have made allegations of sexual abuse. Obviously the center point of that right now is around USA Gymnastics.

USA Gymnastics stated the agenda was expanded after the USOC notified the organisation of their Board of Directors meeting earlier in the month. Nassar denies the charges.

Nassar faces a 22-count indictment in MI charging him with sexual abuse of children and possession of child pornography.

Dozens of former Nassar patients have since filed criminal complaints and civil lawsuits saying they were abused under the guise of treatment.

On March 6, 16 U.S. Senators proposed legislation that would make it a federal crime to not immediately report sexual abuse allegations to authorities.

A month later, the newspaper followed up with a story from two gymnasts alleging they were abused by Dr. Larry Nasssar, a MSU sports-medicine doctor who was team physician for US gymnasts at four Olympic games. A woman complained to Michigan State in 2014 about Nassar, but his supervisors permitted him to keep his job until last September. Nassar is now in prison in Michigan, where he worked for decades at Michigan State University before being let go last fall.

The USOC had no power to fire Penny. The USOC cannot force an Olympic governing body to fire a chief executive, but it can apply political pressure, and it ultimately can decertify an Olympic governing body, revoking its association with the Olympics.

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