USA Gymnastics Voluntarily Files For Bankruptcy

16 hours ago
Originally published on December 5, 2018 5:19 pm
Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

USA Gymnastics filed for federal bankruptcy protection today. It's a major development for the embattled organization that oversees gymnastics in the U.S. The governing body has struggled to recover from a wide-ranging sexual abuse scandal after former team doctor Larry Nassar abused hundreds of athletes. Since then, USA Gymnastics has cycled through three CEOs and faced increased scrutiny by the U.S. Olympic Committee. We're joined now by reporter Alexandra Starr with the latest. Welcome.

ALEXANDRA STARR, BYLINE: Hi. Thanks for having me.

CHANG: So USA Gymnastics was on its way to losing its status as the governing body over the sport. I remember talking to you on this show about that. Was this bankruptcy filing a surprise?

STARR: No, it wasn't. People have talked about it, and it's been expected. Also let's specify the fact that they filed doesn't necessarily mean that they cease to exist as an organization.

CHANG: Right.

STARR: I also think it's very important to differentiate between USA Gymnastics and the athletes. The organization is in a freefall. The elite athletes are literally the reigning world champions. They're extraordinary. And arguably the best athlete of all time, Simone Biles, she's expected to compete in the next Olympics in 2020. And she just won more medals than any American gymnast has in history at the world championships earlier this year. So there's a real disconnect between the organization and the talent that it's field - that fields.

CHANG: Absolutely. That said, does this bankruptcy in any way affect the athletes who are competing now?

STARR: Well, the U.S. will absolutely field a team in 2020 at the Olympics. Whether it's USA Gymnastics fielding the team is in doubt. But, you know, they're certainly going to be there. I think the real impact could be felt in the pipeline. And what I mean by that is the development of the youngest athletes. USA Gymnastics runs the national team camps. That's where coaches scope out talent. It's where judges grade performances and give feedback. That provides the opportunity, too, for promising young athletes to be fielded in international competitions. The question is now, are those opportunities going to remain?

CHANG: Right. Well, let's also talk about, you know, there's been dozens of lawsuits that have been filed against USA Gymnastics after the Larry Nassar scandal. What does this bankruptcy mean for the victims and the families who filed suit against the organization?

STARR: That's a great question. And it's going to make it tougher for them.

CHANG: How so?

STARR: Well, this is what the filing means. While this bankruptcy case moves through the courts, it basically puts a halt on those lawsuits. And as you know, the courts don't move quickly. That process could take years. So it's worth noting that these lawsuits were beginning to unearth information. The lawsuit that Aly Raisman, the star gymnast, had filed was supposed to go to court - go to trial early next year. So that's ending. And so she and all these other athletes are going to be left without a resolution.

CHANG: That's Alexandra Starr, who covers USA Gymnastics for NPR. Thank you.

STARR: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF RUN RIVER NORTH'S "INTRO (FUNERAL) PARADE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.