The USA Gymnastics Women’s Program has announced that coach Mary Lee Tracy, 59, was appointed as the organization’s new elite development coordinator, despite her past comments defending disgraced doctor Larry Nassar.
In December 2016, more than 50 girls and women had accused Nassar of systemic sexual abuse, but to Tracy, the accusations were absurd.
“My Olympians have all worked with Larry,” Tracy told reporters. “We were all defending him because he has helped so many kids in their careers. He has protected them, taken care of them, worked with me and worked with their parents. He’s been amazing.”
Now, Nassar survivors and former elite gymnasts are criticizing USA Gymnastics for choosing Tracy to take over for Tom Forster, who currently serves as interim development coordinator.
But in the organization’s press release announcing the changes, USA Gymnastics made no mention of an apology regarding Tracy’s past comments following Nassar’s conviction.
Instead, it praised Tracy by saying she’s “well-known throughout the gymnastics community for her passion for inspiring and developing self-esteem, confidence, and courage in young women.”
Currently, Tracy serves as the president and head coach at the Cincinnati Gymnastics Academy, a Fairfield, Ohio, elite training facility she’s owned for over three decades.
She’s also served as head coach of the women’s 1996 Olympic team and as the women’s coach at seven world championships.
Tracy was named USA Gymnastics Women’s Coach of the Year three times in the past.
"USA Gymnastics has appointed someone who, in my view, supported Nassar, victim-shamed survivors, & has shown no willingness to learn from the past,” Raisman wrote on Twitter. “This is a slap in the face for survivors, & further confirmation that nothing at @USAG has changed.”
USA Gymnastics has appointed someone who, in my view, supported Nassar, victim-shamed survivors, & has shown no willingness to learn from the past. This is a slap in the face for survivors, & further confirmation that nothing at @USAG has changed. What a profound disappointment! https://t.co/lklLiqsOCJ— Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) August 29, 2018
Lynn Raisman, the athlete’s mother, also criticized Tracy on Twitter, saying she puts her reputation above athletes.
Chelsea Kroll Williams, a former gymnast and also a Nassar survivor, slammed USA Gymnastics, taking to Twitter to talk about Tracy’s abusive behavior.
Calling her “one of the most controlling, domineering coaches” she’s ever met, Williams explained that one of Tracy’s own athletes had been a victim of Nassar’s, and yet, she still supported him.
“At USAG sanctioned events and camps, at least one of her athletes was abused by Larry Nassar,” she wrote. “She supported him even when it was very clear that she shouldn’t. This is maddening.”
Mary Lee Tracy is one of the most controlling, domineering coaches I have ever met. At USAG sanctioned events and camps, at least one of her athletes was abused by Larry Nassar. She supported him even when it was very clear that she shouldn’t. This is maddening. https://t.co/AxckLD7VEl— Chelsea Kroll Williams (@chels327) August 29, 2018
John Manly, an attorney for more than 100 of Nassar's victims, also criticized the organization, calling for Tracy's decertification on Twitter.
Mary Lee Tracy, USAG’s new elite program director was a Nassar defender. Read her glowing comments about him in this article. We represent one of her former athletes brutally molested by Nassar. This is who USAG picks?? Decertification now! https://t.co/UFYkQrczEF— john manly (@johnmanly) August 28, 2018
USAG/Kerry Perry has appointed Mary Lee Tracy who, after 50 women & girls accused Nassar of sexual assault,was still defending him. Congress needs to act to protect our athletes. https://t.co/g9Qs0RlD1w— john manly (@johnmanly) August 29, 2018
One of the former elite gymnasts who trained under Tracy, Alyssa Beckerman, told reporters earlier this year that the coach is an abusive trainer who often harassed her both verbally and physically in 1998.
“Mary Lee used to ask me to hate my mom,” Beckerman said. “She would always say, 'You don’t want to be like your mother, do you?’ She said my mom was wishy-washy.”
She was reportedly forced to train up to 10 hours a day while eating only 1,100 calories. Sometimes, she added, she would actually consume more anti-inflammatory drugs than food because of the constant injuries.
As Raisman put it, USA Gymnastics seems unwilling to learn from its own mistakes, allowing members of the organization who either failed to act or defended Nassar to remain employed, and in Tracy’s case, going as far as offering a promotion.
If the organization hopes to stay relevant, the leadership should show some integrity and review its approaches to reported abuse and those who condone it.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Mike Blake