Opinion: USA Gymnastics files for bankruptcy and loses certification

By Audrey Fisher, Round Table newsroom managing editor

Following the 2016, “me too” movement that shocked the internet, victims of the former USA Gymnastics Team Doctor Larry Nassar, stepped forward. More than 250 victims have stepped forward since this movement and Nassar now faces at least 50 more years in prison before he becomes eligible for parole. While the former employees of USAG that worked to cover this abuse are now in jail, the company itself has done little for the victims.

With an estimated 350 to 400 claims nationwide, people are waiting for their answers. Instead though, USAG just filed for bankruptcy. Insurance companies will now be paying the claims against USAG, and in a way it still feels like these victims are being cheated.

Victims of Nassar were made to feel like they were crazy when they first came out about the abuse. Even after the trail of Nassar began people who had worked for USAG for years denied the reality of these claims. Instead, they made the gymnasts and the families who came forward sound ungrateful and crazy. And even after all of this, USAG has done little themselves to right the wrongs that they and their former employees caused.

We have yet to see USAG be restructured and put their athletes first. While the official training camp where most of the abuse was located has been closed, a permanent one has yet to be opened in its place. While the president of USAG stepped down along with other various officials from the company, no permanent members have been instituted to take their places. And while these gymnasts will be paid, USAG was unable to take the steps to do it themselves.

While it is understandable for the company to file bankruptcy, for many victims it still feels like they are taking the easy way out. Additionally, it is not the money that is the problem at hand. It is the fact that USAG continues to put their athletes second, and themselves first. It seems that until USAG is forced to change something, they refuse to do it themselves. And while going bankrupt will force USAG into a restructuring of their entire business, it will not change the mentality that they have adopted.

In addition to the shocking news of USAG filing for bankruptcy, the United States Olympic Committee announced they are now in the first stages of revoking USAG’s certification. Essentially, this means that USAG will no longer be recognized as the governing body for gymnastics in the United States. Rather, another organization will have to come forward to take their place, and if this doesn’t happen, then gymnasts will temporarily compete under the USOC.

While the revoking of this certification will also require a complete re-branding and restructuring of USAG, it will also put the athletes under immense stress as they continue to try to figure out what all of these changes mean for them. Yes, revoking this certification is a step in the right direction of correcting the wrongdoings of USAG, but it still doesn’t put the athletes first.

Gymnastics is already extremely difficult physically and mentally for the athletes who compete in it, but the constant changes and lack of compassion these athletes are living through makes it so much worse. As someone who competed under USAG for almost ten years, it is extremely difficult to watch the needs of the athletes be put to the side time and time again while the well-being of the company is put first.

This mentality isn’t only apparent in the officials of the company though. This mentality has trickled down to smaller gyms and their gymnasts as well. While competing for a local gym in Maryland, I was able to witness this first hand. Consistently through my career I was taught to put winning and succeeding above all other needs. That included my own mental and physical injuries.

That is why I still do not have the answers of how restructuring the company will change all of this. How can we expect that because we are filing for bankruptcy and are set to lose our certification everyone will automatically change their mentality? While coaches are now expected to take more training in athletes safety and signs of abuse, there are still many people out there who see nothing wrong with putting the needs of the athletes second, and the well-being of the company first.

As much as USAG would like to pretend they know exactly what they are going to do, and exactly how they are going to make it better, I don’t think they do. I don’t think anyone knows exactly what is coming next. USAG has tried to restructure before, and it hasn’t worked. And while we have time right now, that time will run out faster than we all expect.

We are only two short years away for the 2020 Olympics, and soon it’ll only be a year. No one knows what will happen if these changes are failed to be met by then. All I can say is that I truly hope USAG begins to put their athletes first and fix the mess that they’ve made.