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Gymnastics scandal in the United States

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06 Jun 2018 04:18

The former head of USA Gymnastics in a tense session with lawmakers on Tuesday refused to answer questions about the abuse of Olympic athletes and the Larry Nassar scandal, saying he was acting on the advice of lawyers.

Steve Penny was president of USA Gymnastics while Nassar, the disgraced Michigan State University doctor who treated Olympic gymnasts, sexually abused athletes. Penny was subpoenaed to appear before the Senate commerce committee, which has launched an investigation.

Penny in not answering questions invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself. He listened while another witness, Rhonda Faehn, the former USA Gymnastics women’s program director, testified that she told Penny about multiple complaints against Nassar. She said that Penny told her to keep quiet "for fear of possibly impeding any investigation of Nassar."

Faehn, however, said she was not aware of any delay in contacting authorities or attempts to misinform the public. Penny left the hearing room shortly after Faehn testified.

Nassar was sentenced in three separate courts in the sexual assault cases from December 2017 to February 2018 and will need to serve at least 100 years in prison. Michigan State University has announced a $500 million settlement with Nassar’s victims.

Also subpoenaed to testify was former Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon, though Simon did respond to questions from senators.

Senators unsuccessfully probed Penny on what he knew about, when he knew it, and how he acted on that information. Among those questions: Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) asked whether it was correct that Penny waited 41 days to contact law enforcement about allegations against Nassar.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), meanwhile, told Penny that the committee has documentation that Penny had "questions" about Nassar as early as 2013. Blumenthal said another document from 2014 refers to a "code of silence and indicates that you knew about it."

"In the absence of your testimony, documents will speak for you," Blumenthal told Penny.

Penny said he "would like to" answer the questions, but that his attorney advised him against it.

Faehn submitted to the committee emails she and Penny had exchanged in connection with Nassar, including one from 2015 in which Penny instructed her and others "to not have any conversations with anyone concerning this issue until further notice."

In another email, Penny said he would prefer internal interviews with athletes did not include their coaches or parents. Penny noted in the email that those athletes were adults. But Faehn hand wrote on a copy of the email that she submitted that it "bothered me greatly" and that "myself being a parent, there is no way I would want someone to not notify me if something may have happened to my child."
"Are you going to believe me or what you see with your own eyes?"

“It doesn’t matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.”
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