The beleaguered USA Gymnastics has named a new President and CEO — its fourth in two years — as the sport’s governing body battles criticism that it ignored and even enabled widespread sex abuse by former doctor Larry Nassar.
Li Li Leung’s appointment was announced on Tuesday. She has a long history in athletics, both as a child competitor and a sports business professional, most recently serving as a vice president at the N.B.A. USA Gymnastics said it is hopeful Leung can apply her background and passion for the sport, as the organization, and gymnastics as a whole, seeks a fresh start.
“Like everyone, I was upset and angry to learn about the abuse and the institutions that let the athletes down,” Leung said in a statement. “I admire the courage and strength of the survivors, and I will make it a priority to see that their claims are resolved.”
USA Gymnastics is the subject of dozens of lawsuits brought on by hundreds of Nassar survivors and has conceded “USA Gymnastics is one of the organizations that let them down.”
Nassar, who has been sentenced to decades behind bars on multiple sex abuse charges, has a history long entangled with USA Gymnastics. In 1986, he joined as athletic trainer, eventually rising to medical coordinator, before retiring in 2014, according to a timeline compiled by the Lansing State Journal.
Hundreds of women and girls, including high-profile Olympic gymnasts, have accused him of sexual abuse under the guise of medical treatment. As Nassar stood trial, his accusers stepped forward to detail not only their stories of abuse, but also a system that enabled it. A picture emerged of powerful organizations working to protect Nassar, instead of the athletes. The ensuing fallout has ensnared the United States Olympic Committee and Michigan State University, where Nassar also worked.
But USA Gymnastics, in particular, has come under scathing criticism and its leadership has filtered through a revolving door in recent months.
In January, 2018, the entire board announced its resignation. Then Steve Penny, a former president, was arrested and charged with the felony of tampering with evidence of Nassar’s abuse during the investigation, according to the indictment. Two other USA Gymnastics presidents served short tenures before being forced out over accusations of missteps relating to Nassar.
On Tuesday, Leung indicated she is anticipating helping rebuild USA Gymnastics.
“I look forward to collaborating with the entire gymnastics community to create further change going forward, which requires that we implement important initiatives to strengthen athlete health and safety and build a clear and inclusive plan for the future,” Leung said. “For me, this is much more than a job: it is a personal calling, for which I stand ready to answer.”
Leung began competing as an elite gymnast as a girl. In 1988, she represented the U.S. in the Junior Pan American Games, the organization said in a statement. While a student at the University of Michigan, she competed for the school’s gymnastics team, later working for their athletics department.
Her first day on her new job is March 8.