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U.S. Olympic leaders decline to discuss their recommendation for next step in gymnastics scandal

U.S. Olympic leaders decline to discuss their recommendation for next step in gymnastics scandal
Dr. Larry Nassar listens to testimony of a witness during a preliminary hearing in Lansing, Mich., on Feb. 17. (Robert Killips / Associated Press)

Faced with criticism for not acting quickly enough — or strongly enough — in the USA Gymnastics sexual-assault scandal, the U.S. Olympic Committee said Thursday it has delivered a recommendation to that organization about further steps to be taken in the matter.

USOC leaders declined to elaborate on what they want done or on any punitive measures they might take if gymnastics' national governing body refuses to comply.

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"Obviously, they need some time to consider the feedback we provided to them," USOC Chairman Larry Probst said. "We look forward to their response in an appropriate time frame."

The scandal emerged from reports in the Indianapolis Star that outlined more than 360 instances of athletes accusing coaches of sexual transgressions over the last two decades.

Dozens of those cases involve Larry Nassar, a former physician for the national team and Michigan State University who now faces multiple criminal charges.

With the USOC holding a scheduled board meeting on Thursday, it had been widely reported that leadership would call for the dismissal of Steve Penny, USA Gymnastics president and chief executive.

"We had a very thoughtful, lengthy and detailed conversation with our board," Probst said. "There were a variety of points of view."

Probst and USOC's chief executive, Scott Blackmun, said their missive to gymnastics officials did not include a deadline for response.

Paul Parilla, chairman of the USA Gymnastics board of directors, released the following statement:

"The entire leadership of USA Gymnastics shares the USOC's commitment to promoting a safe environment for all athletes, and we take its views seriously. USA Gymnastics has initiated a comprehensive, thorough and independent examination of our requirements, mandates and procedures in this area and we expect this review will identify ways to strengthen our program and better protect youth. The USA Gymnastics Board of Directors will convene shortly and work to determine next steps."

While the USOC has no authority to dismiss Penny, it could withhold funding for USA Gymnastics or, in the most severe case, decertify the organization.

A potential sexual abuse problem within the sport was first brought to the USOC's attention in 1999. The committee, which oversees many different sports, has recently come under fire for not acting more decisively until years later.

"Should we have noticed earlier that this whole area merited closer attention from the USOC?" Blackmun said. "With the benefit of hindsight, I sure wish we had, but we didn't."

USA Gymnastics is facing civil litigation that claims it was negligent in suppressing or failing to disclose knowledge of sexual abuse in its sport. The organization has denied any wrongdoing.

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