(ATR) Just as U.S. gymnasts edge towards a gold medal at the world championships in Doha, the morass of legal issues over athlete sexual abuse only grows thicker.
Steve Penny, former CEO of USA Gymnastics, pleaded not guilty to charges in Texas this week that he removed evidence from the files of the former national training center.
Larry Nassar, the now imprisoned ex-team doctor for USA Gymnastics, is accused by dozens of athletes of sexual abuse while at the training center run by Marta and Bela Karolyi near Houston.
Penny, 54, is not only accused of evidence tampering. Olympic gold medal winning gymnasts say that Penny ignored warnings and complaints about the abuse. They say his delay in taking action resulted in more attacks against athletes until Nassar stopped treating them in 2015.
Penny was arrested last week at a cabin in Tennessee where he was on vacation. He was taken into custody and eventually freed on $50,000 bond. After his Texas court appearance he returned to Indianapolis, headquarters for USA Gymnastics.
Raisman Demands Transparency
Speaking Tuesday on NBC Today, 2012 gold medalist Aly Raisman, perhaps the most vocal athlete critic of USA Gymnastics, called out Penny and the COO of the NGB, Ron Galimore.
"Steve Penny – the first thing he should have done is go and report it to law enforcement. His priority and USA Gymnastics priority was to cover it up," she said on live TV.
"The most important thing is a full and independent investigation," says Raisman.
"I’m feeling that this board -- it’s more important to protect and fix this p.r. problem that they have. They need to understand they have a sexual abuse problem and it is so widespread and far reaching. You need to understand the problem. How many chances can we give the board," she asks.
"I’ve no idea what they were thinking," she says about the flawed selection of Mary Bono three months ago as CEO. Bono quit after four days when controversy swirled around her protest of Nike sponsoring outcast NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
"I hate feeling like I’m an adversary with them, it’s really, really hard for me," she says.
Galimore A New Target
Raisman says the problem at the national governing body can’t be addressed as long as Ron Galimore remains chief operating officer. The 1980 Olympian and former national champion has been COO since 2011.
"Ron Galimore is still working at USA Gymnastics and he was part of the coverup," said Raisman on Today.
So far, Galimore has managed to stay out of the line of fire in the scandal, but that appears to be changing.
"He was the one who covered up for LarryNassar," Raisman says.
Galimore is said to have spread the word that Nassar was sick and unable to carry out his team doctor duties in 2015 when the first incidents of abuse were reported.
Raisman insists that Galimore must go before USA Gymnastics hires a new CEO. There have been two since Penny resigned and a search is underway for a new one, perhaps by the end of the year. She says any CEO will be compromised unless Galimore leaves the organization.
Galimore is also a member of the International Gymnastic Federation Executive Council.
New Lawsuit Raises Criminal Allegations
Two sisters who competed in gymnastics 20 years ago are the latest to sue USA Gymnastics as well as the U.S.Olympic Committee.
Sydney Olympic bronze medalist Tasha Schwikert and her younger sister, Jordan Schwikert, filed a lawsuit in California this week. They accuse the NGB and USOC of enabling theabuse of athletes and failing to protect them from sexual assault.
The lawsuit charges that both women were assaulted at the Karolyi Ranch in Texas. Tasha Schwikert also charges that she was violated at the 2000 Olympics.
The lawsuit is the first filed under the US Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The lawsuit contends that a secret file was kept regarding the sexual abuse charges on that "a culture of psychological and physical abuse" kept victims silent.
"It’s just an awful, awful culture," Tasha Schwikert said at a news conference in Los Angeles. "I don’t think they realize what it does to the athletes long term."
Doha World Championships
Regardless of the scandal, the US women’s team at the FIG World Championships in Doha appears undeterred by the distraction.
The women are number one in the team event and Simone Biles is poised to win a record six medals with the individual competition later this week.
Her triumph in Qatar is more remarkable given the pain she is suffering from a kidney stone. Biles, 21, went to the hospital last Friday for treatment but is still having to compete through the discomfort until she returns to the U.S.
The US men’s team finished in fourth place in the team event.
Another Coach Under Fire
USA Gymnastics says its head tumbling coach for the 2018 U.S. World Championships should resign while an investigation is underway into unspecified charges. A complaint has been filed with the U.S. Center for SafeSport but the details have not been disclosed, as is customary.
The coach, Sergio Galvez, will not travel with the team to the 2018 Trampoline and Tumbling World Championships in St. Petersburg, Russia, scheduled from November 7-10.
A press release from USA Gymnastics says that the travel ban for Galvez is meant "to maintain a safe environment for its athletes".
Reported by Ed Hula.