USA Gymnastics has reportedly asked its senior vice president for women's programs, Rhonda Faehn, to step down after the organization was under the spotlight for harboring disgraced doctor Larry Nassar.
The organization was harshly criticized by gymnastics stars, including Aly Raisman, for not promptly acting on reports of sexual abuse involving Nassar. Faehn is believed to be the first official in the organization to be alerted of the doctor’s predatory, abusive, and inappropriate behavior, IndyStar reports.
In a statement, the organization said: "Rhonda Faehn is no longer with USA Gymnastics. This is a personnel matter that we will not discuss in detail."
The statement also added that the organization wants to implement whatever changes necessary to make it a safe place for athletes.
“We recognize that change can be difficult, but we will not be deterred from making necessary and bold decisions to transform our organization. At USA Gymnastics, we are focused every day on creating a highly empowered culture that puts our athletes first,” the statement read. “Over the next few weeks, we will be communicating some positive changes that reinforce our desire to have our athletes train and compete at the highest level in an empowering and safe environment.”
Last week, Raisman said Faehn should resign for her role in the USA Gymnastics’ 2015 probe into Nassar’s conduct, IndyStar reports.
Faehn was first contacted about Nassar’s abuse on June 17, 2015. One month later, Raisman personally told Faehn what the then-doctor had done to her “in graphic detail.” Unfortunately, Faehn and other officials waited an additional week to report Nassar to the FBI.
"I reported my abuse to Rhonda Faehn and so did Maggie Nichols, and I don't know what she did or didn't do with that information, but I didn't get contacted by the FBI for over a year, and in that time 50 to 100 gymnasts were molested," Raisman said. "This is my frustration of she's still working there, and we need to understand what she did or didn't do because her and [former USA Gymnastics CEO] Steve Penny were fully aware of what's going on. I mean, she's still there."
Only when people who failed to protect the victims step down from their positions will athletes trust the organization again, Raisman said.
The fact that Faehn has stepped down possibly shows that USA Gymnastics is serious about changing the organization’s reputation. At least, one can only hope that this decision is tied to how she handled the reports of abuse, rather than fear that lawmakers who will be interviewing USA Gymnastics officials next week would question them for not letting Faehn go.
The horrific cases of abuse involving Nassar are a dark cloud in USA Gymnastics’ history that will not dissipate, unless the organization is able to prove that it’s putting the safety of children and teens first.
Banner/Thumbnail Credit: REUTERS, Rebecca Cook