The Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal hearing heated up at various times during as the leaders of US Sports appeared in front of the congressional panel. The head of USA Gymnastics, Kerry Perry offered a public apology for the incidents. She said that she was “appalled and sickened” by the scandal.
The hearing was presided over by a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and called on several prominent names in American sports. Additional cases of sexual abuse in taekwondo, volleyball and swimming were also heard by the congressmen. This is the first time that Perry has publicly spoken about the incident since she took office six months ago.
When asked about the conditions that allowed people like Nassar to abuse their victims for years, she said, “Let there be no mistake, those days are over. USA Gymnastics is on a new path, with new leadership and a commitment to ensure this never happens again.”
Nassar was a sports doctor working with Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and US Olympic teams. Hundreds of girls, their parents and former athletes have spoken out against the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of the doctor. Some former Olympians have also detailed their accounts on public platforms, suggesting others to come forward as well. The doctor is now convicted of child sexual abuse and molestation after pleading guilty and will spend the rest of his life in jail. He was also slapped with child pornography charges.
The Wednesday hearing was mostly focused on the role of US Olympic Committee in these incidents. Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon said, “One of the concerns that the committee has heard repeatedly from survivors is that the USOC is more concerned about its own reputation, about medals and money, than it is about athlete safety.” Amid the allegations that the Olympic committee doesn’t pay heed to the concerns of the victims of abuse, former CEO Scott Blackmun and head of gymnastics Steve Penny have already resigned from their posts.
Kerry Perry and new USOC acting CEO Susanne Lyons testified before the committee. Lyons said, “The Olympic community failed the people it was supposed to protect, and I would like to apologize once again to those individuals and their families. I know we can do better.”
Perry was also lashed out at by Rep. Buddy Carter of Georgia as the debate grew more intense. He said, “How can you work for an organization like this that let this happen? … You should resign your position now.”
The gymnastics head, however, spoke about the steps she has taken to help the victims. She, and her colleagues, have launched the US Center for SafeSport that funds victim assistance. The team has also removed the national training site from Karolyi Ranch, where most victims have reported cases of molestation.
Despite these efforts, the committee was critical of the parts that sports leaders played in letting these incidents happen. The heads of different organizations also failed to address problems that occurred before them, which led to widespread frustrations among the victims. Rep. Gus Bilirakis of Florida said, “These horrific events occurred for years without repercussions. Unacceptable.”