Until two years ago, there was no doubt about who controlled gymnastics in the United States. EE. UU. Gymnastics, the national governing body of sport, has been responsible for administering sport at all levels, from beginners to elite, since the beginning of the 60s. Other organizations have had and have a claim about sport, such as Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) or the Association of Independent Gymnastics Clubs of the United States (NAIGC), but the USA Gymnastics is the largest and most influential from far. After all, it is the organization that selects athletes who will compete on behalf of the United States in the Olympic competitions and in other major international competitions. Gymnastics is a sport whose popularity depends on the Olympics. American gymnastics without Gymnastics of the United States did not compute. It's there in the name.
Over the course of two terrible years, however, all this has changed, and the question of who controls gymnastics in the United States is no longer a hypothetical one. Last week, the USOC made the first movement to decertify the Gymnastics of the EE. UU. As a national governing body for sport. The announcement came a couple of days after the 2018 World Gymnastics celebration in Qatar, where Simone Biles and American women once again dominated the competition. Waiting until the competition to make a destabilizing announcement seems only compassionate until it considers that USOC dropped this bomb on the eve of the world championships of trampoline in St. Petersburg, Russia, where the United States had competing athletes. But the concern of the United States Olympic Committee for athletes is directly proportional to the media coverage that the athletes in question order. They did, at least, wait until Simone was gaining gold.
"USA Gymnastics is not gymnastics in the United States," said Tim Daggett, an Olympic gold medalist and longtime NBC commentator. Houston Chronicle. "The YMCAs and community centers and clubs like mine, and all gymnasiums and trainers and volunteers, that is, gymnastics in the United States, and that does not go away."
Daggett's comment pointed to a distinction between the institution and the bases which suggests that the two are completely different things. But, although it would be good for USA Gymnastics to be a tumor that could be eliminated from the sport and leave it healthy and prosperous, the procedure is not so simple and the damage is not so localized. The problems in this sport are not only based on the behavior of the national government body, and they are not new. There are decades of abusive practices above and below the ranks of trainers, from the lowest levels of competitiveness to the elite, and many of the administrators that led the organization for decades have been extracted from the ranks of trainers and ex-athletes. Ron Galimore, even his resignation this morning Like COO of USA Gymnastics, he was one of the first black national champions in gymnastics. Former President Bob Colarossi, who started the training camp system with Bella Karolyi in charge and Larry Nassar as the team's doctor, was an old gymnast and club owner. Others, such as the former CEO and President Steve Penny, who were accused of evidence that they changed positions in connection with the Nassar case, came out of the sport. (Before arriving at USA Gymnastics at the end of the 90's, Penny was the marketing guru for USA Cycling who helped sell Lance Armstrong.) Even US. UU. Gymnastics is dissolved, their problems still persist. USA Gymnastics may not be the totality of gymnastics in this country, but it is also a fairly accurate reflection of the current state of sports in the United States at the moment. Your problems are not just your problems.
There is also the subject of the surgeon. The USOC, which is exercising the decryptic scalpel in this case, is trying to save itself as much as the patient. It is difficult to see USOC's decision to decertify the USAG as any other attempt to cover its own robust ass. USOC is after all in the middle of it own Litigation related to Nassar, while athletes of other sports are sued for their lack of effective protection against abuse. Scott Blackmun, the former head of the organization, was forced to resign in February after it was revealed that Nassar's abuse was reported in 2015 and that he did not act. It's not just him. USOC has always dragged its feet on this case and until March 2017 the organization forced the resignation of Penny six months after the first denunciations against Nassar were made public. It was not until January 2018, after the condemnation of Nassar in Ingham County of Michigan made national and international headlines, that USOC forced the entire board of USA Gymnastics to resign under threat of decertification. The board took the information.
It was not surprising that getting rid of Blackmun did not solve the problems of USOC. The new CEO Sarah Hirshland hastened his concern for the USA Gymnastics leadership after taking the job, which probably caused the board to request the resignation of Kerry Perry after just nine months as CEO / president, but Hirshland USOC also It has been a party to at least one of the recent failures of the Gymnastics of EE. U.: The recruitment of former Republican president Mary Bono as CEO / interim president last month. Bono lasted five days at the show after the gymternet discovered he had sent some reactionary tweets anti-Nike / Colin Kaepernick, Biles, an athlete sponsored by Nike and the most important person in the sport, who announced it and that Bono had worked for the same law firm. lawyers who will help Gymnastics of EE. UU. to hide the real reasons for the dismissal of Nassar in 2015. New York Times He informed the past weekend, it was the USOC itself that added the name of Bono to the list of potential CEO candidates who sent the USA Gymnastics. That the organization saw Bono and found a suitable candidate suggests that both USOC and Gymnastics of the EE. UU. They have similar blind spots.
This fall could not be the first time that USOC truly considered the possibility of decertifying an organization that has been so in crisis for so long.
The first step towards decertification came shortly after. The movement was delayed considering the horrible gymnastics of EE. UU. Who handled this crisis from the moment that the abuses of Nassar were reported for the first time in 2015. But given the very complicity and failures of USOC in that history, it was difficult to feel excited by the words "The USOC is now in charge of things" .
Hirshland & # 39; s The open letter to the gym community does not offer much in the way of details, so it does not offer much in the way of reassuring. There is nothing there about what the process will see, who will have an impact and what will be the desired result. The fact that USOC failed even to describe the short-term plan is particularly unpleasant, given that they had a good time, that is, two years, to see how this scenario could work. This fall could not be the first time they truly considered the possibility of decertifying an organization that was so in crisis for so long.
The only part of the letter that looks like a real statement of purpose is the following: "We will ensure support for Olympic candidates that can be represented in Tokyo by 2020". Whatever the USOC does or has not planned for the USA Gymnastics, it is a certainty that it will do everything possible to ensure that the United States sends strong teams to the next Summer Olympics. It's not about being invested in the hopes and dreams of gymnasts in charge, but because winning the Olympic medal is because the organization exists. Dionne Koller, a professor of Sports Law at the University of Baltimore, wrote in a recent newspaper that "the US. Sport at all levels exists in an environment characterized by limited government regulation, but a strong political and popular desire to win international competition ".
To win is what the USOC considers as its main mission. That is why the Congress gave them their letter. The rest, as Hillel Sage once said, is a comment.
The 1960s were a chaotic period for gymnastics in the United States. At the beginning of the decade, the sport was under the jurisdiction of the AAU, which administered several Olympic sports. In 1962, trainers and others founded the Gymnastics Federation of the United States (USGF) for a belief that developing sport needed its most comprehensive governmental organization. A History of Gymnastics of the USA UU. Written by Brian Schenk mentions trainer Jim Farkas of the Milwaukee Turners, who wrote in 1962 about the shortcomings of the AAU. Farkas praised AAU to select top-level teams for world championships and the Olympics, "but" he wrote, "while claiming jurisdiction over the whole sport … he neglected the actual development programs [and] cared for and planned only in terms of international competitors. "
Farkas and others wanted to see an organization that not only interested in selecting the Olympic team and applying the international elite rules; They wanted a national government organ that would organize all aspects of gymnastics in the United States, from the lowest competitive levels to the elite. "There are thousands of secondary schools, Turner societies, Sokols, YMCA and independent gym clubs, which represent thousands of boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 60, who are all gymnasts in the true sense of the word," wrote Farkas. . "What about them?"
He is saying that Farkas' observations sound very similar to those of Daggett. On Farkas day, the YMCAs were a greater force in sport than the current ones, but now how the essence of the sport can be found at the grassroots level. In the 1980s, gymnastics migrated to private clubs and moved away from places like public schools and community centers, which have the effect of reducing access to sports for all but those that can pay. But, until then, gymnastics were about people who really do it: the thousands of anonymous athletes have fallen into gyms at levels far below the elite.
The bases were not enough for the nascent USGF, who also wanted to take control of the Olympic and world team selection of the AAU team. Olympic gymnasts were, then as now, sport crown jewels and success at the Games boosted the growth of home sports. During the first years of the new federation, there were ferocious battles over who would control the team of Olympic and world championships. (AAU, one must keep in mind that he was also struggling to keep his control in other sports throughout this time, including basketball and field and track). Both the USGF and the AAU have made their own separate competitions and AAU has threatened some of the best gymnasts in the world. a country that participated in the USGF events made them ineligible for the world or Olympic competition, which was still their competition at the time. The USGF asked three times for the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) to be the official national government governing body of the sport and officially took up the Olympic and world championship team chooser in 1970.
All this story is interesting – or, in any case, interesting for an obsessive gym like me – because it shows that even in the early days of modern sports, the governing bodies saw control of the highest levels of gymnastics as integral and fought to win right to be in charge of that process. The bases and the elites, although separated in terms of skill and ambition, were still linked together, but were never similar.
This is in line with how Congress and USOC see the development process. "Congress conceived the US Olympic movement as a pyramidal structure," wrote Koller, "with the best-known sporting opportunities as" bases "at the base and elite, the Olympic sport at the apex." USOC wants what the USGF had and the AAUs had before it the property of the apex.
In a recent mail sent to the Association of Elite Coaches of the United States, the coordinator of high benefits of the female team of the United States. U., Tom Forster, noted that he had spoken to Hirshland and told him that USOC fears that the legal problems of the U.S. UU. Of the pending litigation of Nassar it will have a negative impact on high-performance equipment, so it has moved to decertify the national government body and take charge of those teams.
"I think the USOC is unaware of the complexity of operating our HP [high performance] Teams, "he wrote." Our trainers, as well as many of our young gymnastics, participate in both [Junior Olympic] competitions and elite competitions. "Forster notes that USOC offers USA Gymnastics with two million dollars per year for the high-performance program, which pays for training camps, competition trips, stipends and other expenses. However, , the organization does not pay to host and market competitions such as national championships, the United States or other events.
"There is more," he wrote, "but the truth is that the USOC will fight to deal with what we have established in the last forty years."
Given how little USOC does, my colleague Diana Moskovitz described the organization as a "strange corporate configuration that may not clarify the money but conveniently dodging responsibility" – and even taking over the elite gymnastics program for A short period of time seems like a high order.
Some have been critical of the boost tone of the note: it seems that it was written with "concentration of the troops" in mind, and with an eye to save the gymnastics of EE. UU. Because look at everything you do. He encourages parents, trainers and athletes to reach the board of Gymnastics of the United States. UU. And tell them what they want, if the USAG voluntarily renounces the control of the high-performance program or the fight against it. Forster does not explicitly explain the people to say, but it is clear what he wants the organization to defend.
The obstacles that Forster mentions are not insurmountable; After all, USOC has a lot more money on hand than the USA Gymnastics does at this time. If they wish, they could surely host these competitions and market them as it had in the past the US Gymnastics. This is not the rocket science; if it were, it is hard to believe that someone in USA Gymnastics could take it out.
And even considering how little USOC does, my colleague Diana Moskovitz He described the organization as a "strange corporate configuration like the shell that can not sell the money but conveniently dodges responsibility" – and even assume alone The elite gym program for a short period of time seems like a high order. As former USGF president Mike Jacki said: "USOC does not train and develop athletes, train and develop trainers, train and create employees, direct events … or really have some influence on the maximum success of our athletes in the sport Olympic. "It's not about praising the Gymnastics of the USA. U., That is effectively impossible. It's more to point out how USOC is useless.
Overcoming the highest levels of gymnastics and talent pipeline (up to 2020 alone) would require a dramatic change from USOC, which is currently not responsible for athletes in any discipline. The communications director of the organization sent a request for correction to Deadspin as we use the phrase "USOC athlete" in a blog post; The official position of the organization is that they do not have any athletes
This objective could work, of course, but it is difficult to imagine that USOC could handle this without a number of current Gymnastics officials from the USA. UU. This will surely not be classified as from scratch, and as such is not the "leap clean" or the "fresh start" that many expected after the disastrous EE. UU. Of the gymnasts in the last two years.
And if the USOC not only manages the high performance aspects of the sport and the pipeline, but at the time of fighting the problem of athletes abuse? Well, it's hard to know what to expect then. It's not like there's an institution that is superior to them that can impose a penalty like that imposed on the Gymnastics of the USA. UU. The only organization with enough power to discipline USOC in how it disciplined USAG is perhaps the only organization in the least developed country to do the work-Congress law.