USA Gymnastics hires ex-NBA exec to help lead it past sex scandal


(Reuters) – USA Gymnastics on Tuesday named former National Basketball Association (NBA) vice president Li Li Leung as its new chief executive to help the governing body of the sport navigate the aftermath of a devastating sex abuse scandal.

Leung, who was a college gymnast at the University of Michigan, will take the helm of an organization that filed for bankruptcy protection in December as it staggered under the weight of lawsuits filed by hundreds of women who were sexually abused by former national team doctor Larry Nassar.

“I was upset and angry to learn about the abuse and the institutions that let the athletes down,” Leung said in a statement on Tuesday. “I admire the courage and strength of the survivors, and I will make it a priority to see that their claims are resolved.”

Leung, who also competed in many USA Gymnastics events and represented the United States at the 1988 Junior Pan Am Games, will assume her role as CEO on March 8 and will be based at the USA Gymnastics headquarters in Indianapolis.

“We are thrilled to have Li Li as our next president and CEO, and the Board looks forward to supporting Li Li as she delivers her vision to transform and strengthen our organization and culture,” USA Gymnastics Board Chair Kathryn Carson said in a statement.

USA Gymnastics has been in turmoil ever since dozens of female gymnasts, including Olympic champions such as Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles, came forward to accuse Nassar of sexual abuse.

Over the past two years, three CEOs — Steve Penny, Kerry Perry and interim chief Mary Bono — have been forced out of the organization after being criticized for the way they handled the situation.

Bono resigned just four days into the job last October following criticism by some top gymnasts about whether the former Republican congresswoman was fit to lead the organization.

Nassar was sentenced to up to 300 years in prison in two different trials in Michigan last year after more than 350 women, including Olympic champions Raisman and Jordyn Wieber, testified about abuse at his hands.

USA Gymnastics called Leung “perfectly suited” to lead the governing body during “this important time in our history” given her combination of business skills, management experience and passion for gymnastics.

Leung said she will collaborate with the entire gymnastics community to create positive change, including implementing initiatives to strengthen athlete health and safety and build a clear and inclusive plan for the future.

Prior to her time at the NBA, Leung worked for global sports management firm Helios Partners, where she founded, built and managed the China office, starting 2005 in anticipation of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Leung then moved on to the NBA where her main focus was managing the league’s global priority partners.

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto and Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio

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