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USA Gymnastics board asked to resign over abuse of team members

By Sara Shayanian and Danielle Haynes
USA Gymnastics board asked to resign over abuse of team members
Larry Nassar is led to his seat during court proceedings in Lansing, Michigan. Photo by Rena Laverty/EPA

Jan. 26 (UPI) -- The U.S. Olympic Committee is calling for the 21-member USA Gymnastics board to resign over the sex abuse of athletes by a team doctor or face decertification.

Committee CEO Scott Blackmun sent a letter to the board Thursday outlining steps the governing body must take to stay certified.

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"In the case of USA Gymnastics, the USOC Board and our new working group believe that necessary action includes implementing governance reform," Blackburn said in the letter. "We believe that reform must start with an entirely new board."

A new board would replace interim directors within the next 12 months. The USAG also will have to cooperate with an independent investigation of who knew, who should have known and who did not report abuse allegations about Larry Nassar.

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A judge in Lansing, Mich., sentenced Nassar on Wednesday to 40 to 175 years in prison on seven counts of criminal sexual misconduct. In December, he was sentenced to 60 years in prison on child pornography charges in federal court.

In a seven-day sentencing hearing that began Jan. 16, 168 women and girls testified or had statements read detailing instances of sexual assault by Nassar. Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman was among them.

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Victims also included Olympians Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber.

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Several USAG board members have resigned.

The new board must also "substantively discuss" at its meetings how the organization is implementing 70 recommendations provided by former federal prosecutor Deborah Daniels, whose review found that a "complete cultural change" was needed.

Biles and Raisman cited the organization's culpability for the abuse.

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"We do not base these requirements on any knowledge that any individual USAG staff or board members had a role in fostering or obscuring Nassar's actions," Blackmun wrote in the letter. "Our position comes from a clear sense that USAG culture needs fundamental rebuilding."

USA Gymnastics said it would fully comply with the conditions laid out in the letter.

"USA Gymnastics completely embraces the requirements outlined in the email," the organization said in a statement posted to its website. "We understand that the requirements imposed by the letter will help us enhance our ability to build a culture of empowerment throughout the organization, with an increased focus on athlete safety and well-being."

On Friday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced it would investigate reports of sexual abuse within organized sports. The panel sent letters to USA Gymnastics, the USOC, Michigan State University, USA Swimming and USA Taekwondo to alert the organizations of the probe.

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"The abhorrent abuses associated with Dr. Nassar's case and the allegations by U.S. Taekwondo athletics and U.S. swimmers are disgusting and outrageous, and raise serious concerns about protecting athletes from abuse and mistreatment in organized sports," committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., said. "These organizations must have mechanisms in place to ensure complete oversight and prevent such abuses from occurring. As we move forward in gathering the facts, this committee intends to hold a hearing in order to investigate these critical issues further."

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