Categories: world

If USA Gymnastics dies, what's its place?

Photo: Laurence Griffiths (Getty) Up to two years ago, there was no question of who ruled gymnastics in the United…

Photo: Laurence Griffiths (Getty)

Up to two years ago, there was no question of who ruled gymnastics in the United States. USA Gymnastics, the National Board of Sports, had been responsible for administering sports at all levels, from beginners all the way up the elite, since the early 1

960s. Other organizations had and claimed sport, such as the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) or the United States Association of Independent Gymnastics Club (NAIGC), but USA Gymnastics is the biggest and most influential. It is, after all, the organization that chooses the athletes who will compete on behalf of the United States at the Olympic Games and other major international competitions, and gymnastics is a sport whose popularity depends on the Olympics. American gymnastics without USA Gymnastics is not calculated. It’s just there in the name.

During two horrible years, everything has changed, and the question of who is running gymnastics in the United States is no longer a hypothetical one. Last week, the USOC made the first move towards decertifying USA Gymnastics as the sport’s national governing body. The message came a few days after the end of 2018 world-class gymnastics in Qatar, where Simone Biles and the American women dominated competition again. Wait until after the contest to make such destabilizing announcement seems only compassionate until you think the USOC released this bomb before tumbling and trampolines world championships in St Petersburg, Russia, where the United States had athletes who compete. However, the US Olympic Committee’s concern for athletes is directly proportional to the media coverage that the athletes in question command. They waited at least until Simone was ready to win gold.

“USA Gymnastics is not Gymnastics in America,” Tim Daggett, Olympic Gold Medalist and Long-term NBC commentator, told Houston Chronicle “YMCAs and community centers and clubs like mine, and all gymnasts and coaches and volunteers-it’s gymnastics in America. And it does not matter. “

Dagget’s comment made a distinction between the institution and the grassroots suggesting that the two are completely different things. But while it would be nice if USA Gymnastics was a tumor that could be cut out of the sport and leave it fresh and thriving, the procedure is not that easy and the damage is not really so localized. The problems in this sport lie not only in the behavior of the National Board, and they are not new. There are dozens of abusive routines up and down in the coaches, from the lowest levels of competition all the way up to the elite, and many of the administrators who ran the organization for decades were pulled from the leaders of coaches and former athletes. Ron Galimore, until his departure this morning as COO of USA Gymnastics, was one of the first black national champions in gymnastics. Former president Bob Colarossi, who started the training system with Bela Karolyi at the helm and Larry Nassar as a lawyer, was a former gymnast and club owner. Others, like former CEO and President Steve Penny, who have been accused of evidence manipulating charges in connection with the Nassar case, came from outside the sport. (Before joining USA Gymnastics at the end of the 1990s, Penny was a marketing guru for US Cycling that helped sell Lance Armstrong.) Even though US Gymnastics has been resolved, the problems will remain. USA Gymnastics may not be total gymnastics in this country, but it is also a fairly accurate reflection of the current state of sport in the United States at the moment. Its problem is not just its problem.


It’s also about the surgeon. USOC, which manages decertification scalpel in this case, tries to save as much as the patient. It’s hard to see USOC’s move to decertify USAG as something else an attempt to cover its own highly exposed ass. The USOC is in the middle of its own Nassar-related disputes while being prosecuted by athletes from other sports because they do not effectively protect them from abuse. Scott Blackmun, former director of the organization, was forced to resign in February after it was revealed that he had heard of Nassar’s abuse in 2015 and failed to act. It’s not just him. The USOC has consistently drawn its feet in this case, and it took until March 2017 for the organization to force Penny’s resignation six months after the first accusations against Nassar became public. It was not until January 2018, after Nassar’s judgment in Michigan’s Ingham County made national and international headlines, that the USOC forced the entire US Gymnastics Board to resign under threat of declaration. The board took the tip.

Unable to resolve the USOC’s issue of getting rid of Blackmun. New CEO Sarah Hirshland was quick to express his concern about the leadership of US Gymnastics after taking the job, which probably led to the board demanding Kerry Perry’s termination after just nine months as CEO / President, but Hirshlands USOC has also been a party at least one of the last blunders of the USA’s gymnastics: employment of the former Republican congress, Mary Bono, as interim manager / president last month. Bono spent all five days in the show after the gymnastics discovered that she had sent some off-the-rack reactionary anti-Nike / Colin Kaepernick tweets-Biles, a Nike sponsored athlete and the most important person in the sport, signaled her and Bono had worked for the same law firm that helped US Gymnastics to hide the real reasons for Nassar’s resignation back in 2015. As New York Times reported last weekend, the USOC itself added Bono’s name to the list of potential CEO candidates sent it to USA Gymnastics. That the organization showed Bono and found her a suitable candidate suggests that both USOC and USA Gymnastics have similar blind spots.

This case may not have been the first time the USOC really consider the possibility of decertifying an organization that has apparently been in crisis for so long.

The first step towards declaration came shortly thereafter. The move was long after, given how terrifying US Gymnastics has handled this crisis from the moment they were first notified of Nassar’s abuse in 2015. However, given the USOC’s own involvement and failure in that story, it was difficult to feel encouraged of the words “The USOC is now responsible for things.”

Hirshlands Open letters to the gym community do not offer much in the way of detail, and it does not give much in the way of security. There is nothing there about how the process will look, who it will affect, and what the desired outcome may be. The fact that USOC failed to even describe the short-term plan is particularly crazy because they have had plenty of time – that is, two years – to play out how this scenario would work. This case may not have been the first time they have really considered the possibility of requiring an organization that has apparently been in crisis for so long.

The only part of the letter that acts as a true statement of purpose is this: “We will ensure support for the Olympic hopers who can represent us in Tokyo in 2020.” What USOC does or does not plan for USA Gymnastics is a certainty that it will do everything to ensure that the United States sends strong teams to the upcoming Summer Olympics. This is not because they are invested in the gymnastics hopes and dreams, but to win Olympic medals is why the organization exists. Dionne Koller, a sports lawyer professor at the University of Baltimore, wrote in a recently published newspaper that “all levels of US sport are in an environment characterized by limited public regulation but a strong political and popular desire to win international competition.”

Winning is what the USOC regards as its core mission. Therefore Congress gave them their charter. The rest, as Hillel Sage once said, is a comment.


The 1960s was a chaotic period for gymnastics in the United States. At the beginning of the decade, sport was under the AAU jurisdiction, which administered several Olympic sports. In 1962, coaches and other United States Gymnastics Federation (USGF) founded a belief that the developing sport needed its own, more comprehensive governing body. A story of US Gymnastics written by Brian Schenk quotes coach Jim Farkas from Milwaukee Turners, who wrote in 1962 about AAU’s shortcomings. Farkas praised AAU for choosing high-grade teams for the World Championships and the OS, “but” he wrote “while claiming jurisdiction over the whole sport, it … neglected real development programs [and] contemplated and planned only in terms of international competitors.” [19659003] Farkas and others wanted to see an organization that was not only interested in choosing the Olympic team and implementing international elite rules. They wanted a national governing body that would organize all aspects of gymnastics in the United States, from the lowest levels of competition all the way up the elite. “There are thousands of upper secondary schools, Turner Societies, Sokols, YMCA and independent gymnastics clubs, representing thousands of girls and boys between the ages of 6 and 60, like all gymnasts in the true sense of the word, Farkas wrote.” What about them? “

That says that Farka’s remark sounds a lot like Daggett. On Farka’s day, YMCAs were a major force in sport than they are at present, but now the idea of ​​sports is at grassroots level. In the 1980s, gymnastics migrated to private clubs and away from places like public schools and community centers, which has reduced access to sports for all but those who can afford to pay for it. But even then gymnastics was about the people who actually do it – thousands of anonymous athletes tumbling in high schools at levels far under the elite.

The grassroots were not enough for the growing USGF who would also take control of the Olympic and World Cup f AAU robbery. Olympic gymnasts were, as now, the crown jewels of the sport and the success of the games driven the growth of the sport at home. During the new years of the new federation, there were hard fights over who would rule the Olympic and World Championships. (AAU, it should be noted, also struggled to maintain control over other sports around this time, including basketball and tracks.) Both the USGF and AAU held their own separate competitions and AAU threatened some of the best gymnasts in countries participating in USGF events would make them incompatible with world or Olympic competition, which was still their reach at that time. USGF made the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) three times to sit as the official national board of sports and officially took over as the Olympic and World Cup team vendor in 1970.

All this story is interesting – or, Anyway, interesting for a gym that is obsessive like me – because it turns out that even in the early days of modern sport, governing bodies saw the control of the highest levels of gymnastics as integral and fought hard to gain the right to be responsible for that process. The grassroots levels and the elite, though they were miles apart in terms of skill and ambition, were still tied to each other, but they were never anything as equivalent.

This is consistent with how Congress and USOC look at the development process. “The Congress was perceived by the American Olympic Movement as a pyramid structure,” wrote Koller, “with so-called” grassroots “youth sports at the base and elite, Olympic sports at the top.” USOC wants what the USGF had and AAU had previously owned the top.


In a recently sent email sent to the United States Elite Coaches Association, US Women’s High Performance Coordinator Tom Forster noted that he had spoken to Hirshland and announced that USOC rescues US Gymnastics legal problems from the ongoing Nassar trial to adversely affect high performance teams, why it has moved to declare the national board and take responsibility for these teams.

“I think USOC is not aware of the complexity of running our HP [high performance] team,” he wrote. “Our coaches and many of our young gymnastics participate in both [Junior Olympic] competitions and elite competitions.” Forster finds that USOC provides US Gymnastics with $ 2 million a year for the high performance program, which pays for training camps, racing trips, scholarships and other expenses. However, the organization does not pay for host and market competitions such as National Championships, USA Classic or a host of other events.

“There is more,” he wrote, but the point is that USOC will struggle to deal with what we have established over the past 40 years. “

Given how little USOC actually does – my colleague Diana Moskovitz described the organization as a” weird, scalcorpore-like attitude that may not wash money, but do it, comfortably, dodge responsibility “-The only takes over the elite gymnastics program A short time looks like a long order.

Some have been critical of the note’s boosterish tone – it seems to have been written with “rallying the troops” in mind, and with an eye on doing the case to save US Gymnastics because look at everything it does. He urges parents, coaches and athletes to reach the US Gymnastics Board and tell them what they want – if the USAG voluntarily refrain from controlling the high performance program or combating it. does not explicitly say to people what to say but it is clear what he wants them to defend the organization.

The obstacles Forster mentioned are not appeals . After all, USOC has a lot more money on hand than USA Gymnastics currently does. If they wanted, they would certainly be able to host these competitions and market them just as US Gymnastics had before. This is not rocket science; If it were, it’s hard to believe that someone at the USA Gymnastics could have pulled it up.

And yet considering how little USOC actually does – my colleague Diana Moskovitz described the organization as a “weird Shell Corporation like setup that can not wash money, but does, comfortably, dodge responsibility” -even takes over only The elite gymnastics program for a short time looks like a long order. As former USGF President Mike Jacki said: “The USOC does not train and develop athletes, train and develop coaches, train and create officials, run events … or really have real influence on the ultimate success of our athletes in Olympic sports.” This is not to praise US Gymnastics, which is effectively unattainable. It is more to point out how unfortunate USOC is.

Taking over the highest levels of gymnastics and talent management – even by 2020 – would require a dramatic shift from the USOC, which currently does not take ownership of any athletes in any discipline. The organization’s communications director Deadspin sent a request for a correction since we used the phrase “USOC athlete” in a blog post; The official position of the organization is that they do not have any athletes.

This gambit could work, but it’s hard to imagine that USOC could handle it without bringing a number of current US gymnastics staff this week to make it happen. It will certainly not qualify as starting from the beginning, and as such is not the “pure break” or “novice” that many hoped for after the US gymnastics catastrophic last two years.

And if the USOC fails just to handle high-performance aspects of sport and talent management, but to combat the issue of athletic abuse? Well, it’s hard to know what to expect then. It’s not like there’s an institution above those who can impose a penalty like the one they introduced to USA Gymnastics. The only organization with sufficient power to discipline the USOC in the way the disciplined USAG is perhaps the only organization in the country less cut out to make the job the right congress.

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