U.S. Olympic Committee officials will consider recommending the ouster of USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny at their board meeting Thursday amid the fallout from a sexual assault scandal surrounding a former team doctor, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.
Penny is a co-defendant in a civil lawsuit filed by 2000 Olympian Jamie Dantzscher, who has accused former volunteer team doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the USOC’s discussions regarding Penny’s future have been private.
USA Gymnastics has denied wrongdoing. In the wake of the lawsuit, the federation hired a former federal prosecutor to lead an independent review of how the organization deals with allegations of sexual misconduct.
The USOC cannot decide Penny’s fate, though a recommendation from the committee could go a long way toward forcing the hand of USA Gymnastics.
The USA Gymnastics board supports Penny, and late Wednesday, board members Paul Parilla, Jay Binder and Bitsy Kelley, along with 1984 Olympic gold medalist Mary Lou Retton, released a statement calling Penny “among the strongest advocates for our athletes.”
“He takes their safety seriously, and over the course of his tenure … has strengthened USA Gymnastics policies and programs to further protect the health and well-being of athletes.”
The lawsuit claims USA Gymnastics negligently suppressed, concealed or failed to disclose knowledge that Nassar had engaged in sexual conduct with team members. Nassar’s attorneys have denied any wrongdoing by the doctor.
USA Gymnastics fired Nassar two years ago after going to federal authorities following an investigation into possible abuse by Nassar, leading the FBI to conduct its own investigation of the doctor.
Nassar, 53, has been charged with sexually assaulting nine girls, the first criminal cases related to his work at Michigan State University where he was the preferred doctor for gymnasts in the region who had back or hip injuries. Michigan State is conducting an internal investigation of Nassar’s work.
Besides the criminal cases, Nassar faces charges in two cases that were filed in 2016 and are unrelated to his work as a doctor. He’s accused of possessing child pornography and molesting the daughter of family friends. He has been jailed without bond.