Mired in scandal and a series of public gaffes, USA Gymnastics is hoping to turn things around with an NBA executive as its new leader.
The embattled organization named Li Li Leung as its president and chief executive on Tuesday, concluding a long search marked by hiccups and controversy.
“Li Li’s unique combination of business skills, management experience and passion for gymnastics make her perfectly suited to lead our organization at this important time in our history,” Kathryn Carson, chair of the organization’s board, said in a statement.
The national governing body’s troubles date back to 2015, amid early allegations that former sports doctor Larry Nassar was molesting young athletes.
More recently, USA Gymnastics has faced a decertification process initiated by the U.S. Olympic Committee and has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in an effort to settle a wave of lawsuits brought by women who say Nassar was not properly supervised.
“Like everyone, I was upset and angry to learn about the abuse and the institutions that let the athletes down,” Leung said. “I admire the courage and strength of the survivors, and I will make it a priority to see that their claims are resolved.”
Hundreds of young women have come forward with accusations that Nassar — who worked in various capacities for USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University and the U.S. Olympic team — molested them under the guise of providing medical treatment.
Nassar, 55, is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison after pleading guilty to charges of sexual assault and possession of child pornography.
USA Gymnastics is not alone in facing litigation. Michigan State announced that it would set aside $500 million to settle current and future claims, and the USOC also has been sued.
Leung, who was vice president of global partnerships for the NBA and a former USA Basketball executive, takes charge at a time of chaos for American gymnastics.
Longtime USA Gymnastics leader Steve Penny resigned under pressure in March 2017 and his replacement, Kerry Perry, was forced out just months later.
The organization named former Rep. Mary Bono on an interim basis in October 2018, but that move drew heat when two-time Olympian Aly Raisman and others complained Bono had worked for a law firm that reportedly helped USA Gymnastics cover up the Nassar scandal.
Leung arrives as a former collegiate gymnast who competed for the University of Michigan and later served as a volunteer assistant at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst . She has vowed to fight decertification and keep USA Gymnastics as the U.S. governing body for the sport.
“For me, this is much more than a job,” she said of her new post. “It is a personal calling, for which I stand ready to answer.”