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Congress to grill USA Gymnastics’ Kerry Perry about sexual abuse

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LOS ANGELES — In the six months since she became of head of USA Gymnastics, Kerry Perry has not publicly answered questions about the sexual abuse scandal that immersed the sport in scandal.

That changes Wednesday.

Congress to grill USA Gymnastics’ Kerry Perry about sexual abuse
Congress to grill USA Gymnastics’ Kerry Perry about sexual abuse

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.

Her written statement shows she will offer the briefest of apologies to the victims of the former Olympic team doctor accused of molested at least 332 girls and women.

“First, I want to apologize to all who were harmed by the horrific acts of Larry Nassar,” Perry will say before questioning begins — a line that seems unlikely to mollify her critics.

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.”

“There’s been a systemic failure in the community to protect athletes,” said Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., adding that it will take a “Herculean effort” to win back the trust of athletes and their parents.

“It is time to change the culture once and for all.”

The staff has usurped that prestige for itself, they have wrapped themselves in the five rings instead of the athletes.

The staff has usurped that prestige for itself, they have wrapped themselves in the five rings instead of the 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. And on the eve of the hearing, it announced $1.3 million in funding for victim counseling.

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 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.

And just minutes before the hearing started, USAG announced changes to the structure of its board, adding more independent members.

But WHY is Scott bregman fired? He was the architect of a lot of the transparency improvements we’ve seen this past year. He’s made the system so much better. WHY would you fire him!?!?

— Khorkina’s Revenge (@Brestyan_Legs) May 19, 2018

Congress’ interest in sexual abuse in amateur sport was sparked by the case of Nassar, who was accused of molesting patients — 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 team filed 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.

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