USA Gymnastics

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Formation1963 (1963) (as U.S. Gymnastics Federation)
Type501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization
PurposeSport governing body
HeadquartersIndianapolis, Indiana
Region served
United States
more than 174,000 (more than 148,000 competing athletes)[1]
Li Li Leung[2]
Main organ
Board of Directors
Parent organization
United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC)
AffiliationsInternational Gymnastics Federation (FIG)
more than 60[1]

United States of America Gymnastics (USA Gymnastics or USAG) is the national governing body for gymnastics in the United States. Established in 1963 as the U.S. Gymnastics Federation (USGF),[1] USA Gymnastics selects and trains the men's and women's national teams for the Olympic Games and World Championships. USAG sets the rules and policies that govern the sport of gymnastics, promotes the sport at all levels, and serves as a resource center for members, clubs, fans and gymnasts.[1]

The programs governed by USAG are:

The women's artistic program holds multiple nationally televised competitions each year.

The USAG was central to the largest sex-abuse scandal in sports history.[3] In 2016, two decades of widespread sexual abuse of athletes, mostly minors, by coaches and other people overseen by USAG came to light. This led to federal and state investigations and prosecutions, and the resignations of the USAG president and board. In 2018, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) began to decertify the USAG as a national governing body[4] but put the process on hold after USAG declared bankruptcy; it ultimately decided not to act in 2021, citing the organization's reform efforts. More than 500 athletes sued USAG and USOPC, alleging that the organizations were partially culpable for their sexual assaults; in 2021, the organizations settled the lawsuits for $380 million.[5]



USAG was established in 1963 as the U.S. Gymnastics Federation.[1]

The need for a governing body had begun to appear at the 1959 Pan American Games, when friction developed between the games' organizers, the Amateur Athletic Union, and the Olympic Gymnastics Committee. The NCAA was dissatisfied as well, and asked the National Association of Gymnastics Coaches to begin planning for a new national governing body. The U.S. Gymnastics Federation was established in 1963. But resistance by the AAU, which was loath to relinquish control over gymnastics, and other factors meant that the new federation was not internationally recognized as the governing body of U.S. gymnastics until 1970.[6]

The organization renamed itself USA Gymnastics in 1993.[7]

Sex abuse scandal[edit]

In 1990, USA Gymnastics began to keep a list of people permanently banned from coaching for sexual abuse and other reasons.

For example, the list includes Robert Dean Head, a USAG coach in Kentucky who in 1992 pled guilty to raping a 12-year-old, and Don Peters, the national coach for the 1984 Olympic team, who was banned in 2011 after two former gymnasts accused him of sexual abuse. USAG began requiring background checks for coaches in 2007.[8]

Yet by 1996, and possibly much earlier, USAG officials had begun a pattern of concealing and enabling sexual assaults on gymnasts by coaches and others.[9]

USAG leaders routinely dismissed complaints and warnings about coaches.[10][11] For example, USAG received complaints about coach Mark Schiefelbein long before he was convicted in 2003 of molesting a 10-year-old girl.[12] USAG officials would admit under oath in 2013 that allegations of sexual abuse were routinely dismissed as hearsay unless they came directly from a victim or victim's parent.

Even when USAG leaders believed the accusers, they sometimes allowed coaches to continue coaching for years. For example, they waited four years before telling the police that they had received credible allegations of sexual assault by Marvin Sharp, who became a USAG coach in 2010 and was jailed in 2015 on state and local charges of misconduct with a minor and possession of child pornography.[13]

USAG leaders even permitted coaches and others who were convicted of crimes to remain in the sport for years afterward. Documents released in the prosecution of Georgia coach William McCabe revealed how USAG responded to sexual misconduct allegations made against coaches from 1996 to 2006.[9] One letter says a USAG regional chair spoke to the organization's president in support of allowing a convicted sex offender to keep his membership. Other documents include sexual abuse complaints filed against 54 coaches, many of whom were convicted of crimes yet allowed by USAG to continue in the sport for years.[9]

Hundreds more alleged sexual assaults came to light in 2016, when the Indianapolis Star began publishing the results of a nine-month investigation into the sexual abuse of gymnasts and the role that USAG had played in them. The Star found that the abuses were widespread because "predatory coaches were allowed to move from gym to gym, undetected by a lax system of oversight, or dangerously passed on by USA Gymnastics-certified gyms".[14]

USAG CEO Steve Penny was forced to resign in March 2017, but received a $1 million severance package.[15] Among other actions, Penny had waited weeks to notify the FBI of sexual abuse allegations against Larry Nassar, the national team doctor through four Olympic cycles.[16][15] Penny was arrested the following year on charged of destroying or hiding documents related to Nassar’s activities at the Karolyi Ranch.[15] The charges were ultimately dismissed due to lack of evidence, but led to several reforms of the law by Congress. USAG placed Penny on its "permanently ineligible" list of members.

USAG hired a former federal prosecutor to develop recommendations to reform its policies related to sexual misconduct. In June 2017, Deborah J. Daniels released a report with 70 recommendations,[17] including removing the "athlete representative" from the Olympic selection committee, so athletes would be less afraid to report abuses.[16]

USA Gymnastics cut ties with the Karolyi Ranch in the wake of the scandal, after several gymnasts said they had been abused by Nassar on the premises. The ranch, operated by Béla Károlyi and his wife, former national team coordinator Márta Károlyi, had been the official US Women's National Team Training Center since 2001.[16] Marta was replaced in 2016 by Valeri Liukin, a Soviet Olympic medalist and owner of World Olympic Gymnastics Academy;[18] Liukin would resign two years later due to his own involvement in the sex abuse scandal.[19]

In 2018, Nassar pleaded guilty to sexually abusing over 300 female athletes,[20] including Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber. Following his sentencing, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) threatened to decertify USA Gymnastics unless the entire board resigned. USA Gymnastics complied and all 21 board members resigned on January 26.[21] Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney has filed a lawsuit alleging that USA Gymnastics paid her to keep silent about Nassar's abuse.[16] Gymnasts have called for those who protected Nassar, including in the USOPC and USA Gymnastics, to be held accountable for their actions.[22]

In September 2018, USA Gymnastics fired its elite development director for women, Mary Lee Tracy, who was heavily criticized for initially defending Nassar. USOPC's new CEO Sarah Hirshland said that it was "time to consider making adjustments in the leadership" of USA Gymnastics; two days later, USA Gymnastics president Kerry Perry was forced to resign.[23]

On November 5, 2018, the USOPC announced that it was starting the process to decertify USAG as the national governing body for gymnastics in the United States.[24] One month later, USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy.[25][26][27][28] In February 2019, the USOPC halted its decertification efforts, citing USAG's bankruptcy.[29]

On February 19, 2019, USA Gymnastics appointed a new president and CEO: Li Li Leung, a former gymnast who had most recently served as a vice president at the National Basketball Association (NBA). Leung said she "was upset and angry to learn about the abuse and the institutions that let the athletes down. I admire the courage and strength of the survivors, and...will make it a priority to see that their claims are resolved."[30]

In 2020, Congress passed and U.S. President Donald Trump signed the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic and Amateur Athletes Act,[31][32][20] which gave athletes more protections from sexual and other abuse by coaches and employees in Olympic and Paralympic sports and more representation in decision-making roles.[32][20] The Act increased federation funding for the U.S. Center for SafeSport to $20 million, gave the USOPC exclusive authority to respond to sexual abuse and sexual allegations of misconduct within the USOPC and national governing bodies, established a bipartisan committee to do a review of the USOPC, and empowered the Congress to dissolve the USOPC and decertify NGBs if they fail to follow through on reforms.[20][31]

On February 25, 2021, the U.S. state of Michigan charged former USA Gymnastics coach John Geddert with 24 felonies including human trafficking and forced labor, first degree sexual assault, second degree sexual assault, racketeering, and lying to police. Geddert was the U.S. national team coach at the 2012 London Olympics and was closely affiliated with Nassar. Geddert died by suicide the same day.[33]

In 2021, the USOPC decided not to decertify USAG as national governing body,[4] citing the organization's reform efforts. That same year, USOPC and USAG settled the sex-abuse lawsuits for $380 million.[5]


Women's Artistic programs[edit]

The Women's Artistic programs include these events: vault, uneven bars, balance beam, and floor exercise.

Elite Program[edit]

The Elite Program consists of regional and national training programs and competitions designed for athletes aspiring to represent the United States in international competition. Athletes participate at Developmental, Open, Pre-Elite, and National Team training camps. Only athletes at the National Team level are called "elite gymnasts".[34] There are two Elite groups: Junior Elite (ages 11–15) and Senior Elite (ages 16+).

Annual elite-level competitions include the American Cup, U.S. Classic, and U.S. Championships, as well as multiple National Qualifying Meets throughout the year.[35] Junior and Senior National Teams are selected based on performance at the U.S. Championships. These athletes then compete at the World Championships. In Olympic years, elite gymnasts compete at the Summer Olympics.

In order to get to the elite level, a gymnast must pass both the elite compulsory and optional qualifiers. In elite compulsory qualifiers, gymnasts compete a basic routine designed by organizers to demonstrate that the gymnast has all the basic skills, including twists, handsprings, jumps, leaps, kips to cast handstand, giants, turns, and more. In elite optionals, the gymnast is evaluated for advanced skills and moves, such as pak saltos, releases, complex dismounts, multiple tucks/twists, double layouts, twisting vaults, and more. In optionals, gymnasts create their own routines.

Talent Opportunity Program[edit]

The Talent Opportunity Program (TOPs) seeks to identify talented female gymnasts aged 7–10 for further training up to the elite level. State and regional evaluations are followed by a national test of physical abilities and basic gymnastics skills in October of each year. This is followed by a national training camp in December for those who qualify.[36]

Olympics Hopefuls program[edit]

The Olympics Hopefuls program (HOPEs) is a program to identify talented gymnasts, generally aged 11–14, and train them to an advanced level. In order to qualify for HOPEs, a gymnast must pass both the elite compulsory and optional qualifiers, and get a certain minimum score. HOPEs Elite gymnasts compete at elite meets, but not as a Junior Elite.

Women's Development Program[edit]

The Women's Development Program (previously the Junior Olympic program) provides training, evaluation, and competition opportunities to allow developing gymnasts to safely advance at their own pace through specific skill levels. Most competitive gymnasts advance through this system.

As of August 1, 2013, the levels are as follows.[37]

  • Developmental levels 1–2: the most fundamental skills performed in a non-competitive, achievement-oriented environment
  • Compulsory levels 3–5: progressively difficult skills performed competitively as standardized routines (all gymnasts at a given level perform the same routines)
  • Optional levels 6–10: progressively difficult skills performed competitively in original routines

Skills are grouped by degree of difficulty and given the letter ratings A–E, with A denoting the easiest skills. Levels 6–8 have difficulty restrictions, in that a gymnast competing at one of these levels may not attempt skills above a certain level of difficulty (for example, level 6 and 7 gymnasts may only include A and B skills in their routines). Levels 9 and 10 have no such difficulty restrictions, although level 9 gymnasts may include only one D or E skill in any single routine.[38]

In addition to demonstrating the necessary skills, gymnasts must reach a minimum age to advance to the next level. For example, level 8 and 9 gymnasts must be at least 8 years old; level 10 gymnasts must be at least 9 years old. Regardless of age, all beginning gymnasts enter the program at level 1 and may advance through more than one level per year. Competitions for gymnasts at level 7 culminate in State Championships, level 8 at Regional Championships, level 9 at Eastern or Western Championships, and level 10 at Junior Olympic National Championships.[39]

Prior to August 1, 2013, the developmental levels were numbered 1–4, the compulsory levels 5–6, and the optional levels 7–10. The old levels 1 and 2 have been combined into the new level 1; level 7 has been split into the new levels 6 and 7; and the numbering of levels 3–6 have each been shifted down one level for the new system.[38]

Xcel Program[edit]

The Xcel Program provides training and competition experience for gymnasts outside of the traditional Junior Olympic program. Its stated purpose is "to provide gymnasts of varying abilities and commitment levels, the opportunity for a rewarding gymnastics experience." Participants compete in individual and team competitions in Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond divisions, based on age and ability level.[40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "About USA Gymnastics". USA Gymnastics. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  2. ^ "Li Li Leung Is Appointed President and CEO of USA Gymnastics". USA Gymnastics. February 19, 2019.
  3. ^ Macur, Juliet (January 19, 2018). "Who Has U.S.A. Gymnastics' Back at This Point? The U.S.O.C., for Some Reason". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 7, 2023.
  4. ^ a b "US Olympic Committee moves to revoke USA Gymnastics' status". CNN. November 6, 2018. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Macur, Juliet (December 13, 2021). "Nassar Abuse Survivors Reach a $380 Million Settlement". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  6. ^ "First 50 Years Timeline • USA Gymnastics". USA Gymnastics. Retrieved October 26, 2023.
  7. ^ "1962: The Formation of the United States Gymnastics Federation – Gymnastics History". Retrieved October 26, 2023.
  8. ^ "USA Gymnastics | Permanently Ineligible Members and Participants". Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  9. ^ a b c Kwiatkowski, Marisa; Evans, Tim; Alesia, Mark (March 5, 2017). "Judge Releases USA Gymnastics Sex Abuse Files". Dayton Daily News (Dayton, OH). Archived from the original on February 5, 2018. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  10. ^ Kwiatkowski, Marisa; Alesia, Mark; Star, Evans (August 4, 2016). "A BLIND EYE TO SEX ABUSE; How USA Gymnastics Protected Coaches over Kids by Failing to Report Allegations of Misconduct". Dayton Daily News (Dayton, OH). Archived from the original on February 5, 2018. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  11. ^ Rapp, Timothy (August 4, 2016). "USA Gymnastics Allegedly Failed to Alert Authorities to Sexual Abuse Allegations". Bleacher Report. Retrieved July 12, 2023.
  12. ^ "Former gymnastics coach receives 96-year sentence - The Associated Press". The Oak Ridger (TN). October 2, 2003.
  13. ^ Schuman, Rebecca (September 22, 2015). "Marvin Sharp Was My Gymnastics Coach". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339. Retrieved October 26, 2023.
  14. ^ Evans, Tim; Alesia, Mark; Kwiatkowski, Marisa (December 15, 2016). "A 20-year toll: 368 gymnasts allege sexual exploitation". The Indianapolis Star. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  15. ^ a b c "Larry Nassar, Steve Penny and more: Where are key players in USA Gymnastics scandal now?". IndyStar. July 31, 2021.
  16. ^ a b c d Hanna, Jason (January 26, 2018). "The fallout from Larry Nassar's sexual abuse is just beginning". CNN. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  17. ^ Daniels, Deborah J. (June 26, 2017). "Report to USA Gymnastics on Proposed Policy and Procedural Changes for the Protection of Young Athletes" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on January 26, 2018. Retrieved December 1, 2023.
  18. ^ Zaccardi, Nick (September 16, 2016). "Valeri Liukin named USA Gymnastics women's national team coordinator". OlympicTalk. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  19. ^ "Valeri Liukin resigning from role with U.S. women's gymnastics team". USA TODAY. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  20. ^ a b c d D'Addona, Dan (October 1, 2020). "Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, Amateur Athletes Act, Watches USOPC". Swimming World News. Swimming World Magazine. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
  21. ^ "Entire US gymnastics board to quit over Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal". The Independent. January 26, 2018. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  22. ^ "USA Gymnastics board resigning amid sexual abuse scandal". Reuters. January 27, 2018. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  23. ^ Macur, Juliet; Belson, Ken (September 4, 2018). "Kerry Perry, U.S.A. Gymnastics Chief, Is Forced Out". The New York Times.
  24. ^ "US Olympic Committee moves to revoke USA Gymnastics' status". CNN. November 6, 2018. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  25. ^ "USA Gymnastics files for reorganization under Chapter 11 of Bankruptcy Code". USA Gymnastics. December 5, 2018.
  26. ^ "USA Gymnastics announces petition filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy". Fox News. December 5, 2018.
  27. ^ "USA Gymnastics files for bankruptcy as part of 'reorganization'". ESPN. December 5, 2018.
  28. ^ "USA Gymnastics files for bankruptcy as part of 'reorganization'". ESPN. December 5, 2018.
  29. ^ "Senate wants USOC to explain halt in decertification of USA Gymnastics". Orange County Register. April 24, 2019. Retrieved October 26, 2023.
  30. ^ "Li Li Leung Is Appointed President and CEO of USA Gymnastics". USA Gymnastics. February 19, 2019.
  31. ^ a b "Trump signs U.S. reform bill into law after Nassar abuse scandal". Reuters. November 1, 2020. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
  32. ^ a b Moran, Jerry (October 20, 2020). "S.2330 - 116th Congress (2019-2020): Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act of 2020". Retrieved November 2, 2020.
  33. ^ Murphy, Dan; Barr, John (February 25, 2021). "Ex-USA Gymnastics coach John Geddert kills himself after felony charges, including human trafficking, sexual assault". ESPN.
  34. ^ "Women's Program Overview". USA Gymnastics. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  35. ^ "USA Gymnastics Women's Elite Calendar" (PDF). USA Gymnastics. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  36. ^ "TOPs Program Overview". USA Gymnastics. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  37. ^ "2013-2021 Junior Olympic Compulsory Program". USA Gymnastics. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  38. ^ a b "Structure and Mobility chart for the Women's Junior Olympic Program for entering the 2013-2014 season" (PDF). USA Gymnastics. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  39. ^ "Junior Olympic Program Overview". USA Gymnastics. Retrieved July 27, 2013.
  40. ^ "Xcel Program" (PDF). USA Gymnastics. Retrieved July 27, 2013.

External links[edit]

External links[edit]