USA Gymnastics' Kerry Perry to be grilled by Congress on abuse
That changes Wednesday.
Perry, who took over the non-profit that governs the sport after its previous president resigned under fire, will appear before a congressional subcommittee investigating the ability of the Olympic movement to protect athletes from predators.
The acting chief of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the heads of national governing boards for three other sports will also be grilled by the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which has been investigating for four months.
In a memo prepared ahead of the hearing, the committee said that while the Olympic community has adopted reforms in recent years, "it remains unclear whether these reforms will adequately protect athletes."
Ahead of the hearing, some of the witnesses have been busy making changes they are likely to tout on Capitol Hill.
The U.S. Olympic Committee, which has been accused of lax oversight of the sports federations under its umbrella, hired a former FBI official as its senior director of athlete safety this week.
Last week, Perry abruptly fired the head of the USA Gymnastics women's program, Rhonda Faehn, while she was running a national training camp. Even those who had called for Faehn's ouster, angered that she did not immediately report abuse allegations against team doctor Larry Nassar to police, said the handling of her dismissal was ham-fisted.
Perry gave no explanation for Faehn's removal, and at least five other USA Gymnastics staffers were let go in what the organization called a restructuring that mystified some fans and athletes.
Congress' interest in sexual abuse in amateur sport was sparked by the case of Nassar, who was accused of molesting 332 women and girls — including Olympic gold-medalists McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles — under the guise of invasive exams.
But the issue transcends gymnastics. Just this Tuesday, a 2012 Olympic swimmer, Ariana Kukors, sued USA Swimming, accusing the organization of covering up alleged abuse by her former coach — who denies wrongdoing.
Two weeks ago, four women who were on the U.S. taekwondo teamfiled a federal lawsuit claiming they were forced to train with two brothers, a coach and an athlete, who had been accused of sexual abuse since 2006.
A top volleyball coach was sued in March and accused of raping six girls starting in 1981. Rick Butler, who has denied abusing anyone, was banned from the sport in 1995 but partially reinstated five years later.
Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a former Olympic swimmer and founder of Champion Women, said the scandals won't stop until the balance of power within the Olympic community changes.
At the moment, she said, the staff of the U.S. Olympic Committee and the national governing boards put themselves before the athletes who represent the best America has to offer.
"The staff has usurped that prestige for itself, they have wrapped themselves in the five rings instead of the athletes," she said.
"Athletes fly coach and stay in dormitories. I would ask [the witnesses], 'Why do you stay at the nicest hotels? How come staff gets to bring their spouses and athletes don't?'
"They tend to treat the athletes like they are fungible, but they are the .00001 percent. It's the staff who are totally fungible."