Follow Us On

Written by Amanda Turner    Friday, 02 February 2018 12:39    PDF Print
Valeri Liukin Resigns with 'Heavy Heart' from USA Gymnastics
(10 votes, average 4.00 out of 5)

Valeri Liukin has resigned from his position as the women's national team coordinator for USA Gymnastics, he said Friday in a statement, saying the "present climate causes me, and more importantly, my family, far too much stress, difficulty and uncertainty." Pictured: Valeri Liukin and Marta Karolyi, whom he succeeded as U.S. women's national team coordinator, at the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart.

Valeri Liukin has resigned from his position with a "heavy heart" as the women's national team coordinator for USA Gymnastics, he said Friday in a statement, saying the "present climate causes me, and more importantly, my family, far too much stress, difficulty and uncertainty."

Liukin, who replaced Marta Karolyi as the national team coordinator in the fall of 2016, submitted his resignation amidst the current fallout at USA Gymnastics, which has been accused of fostering an abusive culture.

Liukin wrote that he had been looking forward to turning around the program as the national team coordinator, but he felt he had to do what was best for his family.

"It is time to move on in a different direction, at least for now," Liukin wrote. "I wish the coaches and athletes continued success, and I stand ready to encourage and support all of them from a different vantage point."

Liukin is among the most respected figures in gymnastics. A native of Kazakhstan, he was a daredevil on the undefeatable Soviet men's team from the mid-1980s to 1991. He was the first gymnast to tumble a triple back on floor exercise — still the most difficult tumbling move done today — and he also has a move named after him on high bar, the full-twisting layout Tkatchev. He won four Olympic medals at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul: gold medals with the team and on high bar, and silver medals in the all-around and on parallel bars. In 1993, he moved from Russia to the United States with his wife, Moscow native and rhythmic world champion Anna Kochneva, and his baby daughter, Nastia Liukin. Nastia Liukin went on to become a legend in her own right, winning four world championship titles between 2005 and 2007 before winning the all-around gold and four other medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, tying the American gymnastics record of five medals in a single Olympics.

In 1994, Liukin co-founded World Olympic Gymnastics Academy in Plano, Texas, with former sports acrobatics world champion Yevgeny Marchenko. In addition to coaching multiple world champions and dozens of collegiate gymnasts, WOGA has produced three Olympic champions, including Nastia Liukin, who followed 2004 Olympic all-around champion Carly Patterson, and Madison Kocian, a member of the "Final Five" U.S. team that won a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where she also won a silver medal on uneven bars.

Liukin left the ranks of personal coaches in 2013 when he became the elite developmental coordinator, overseeing the progress of the junior team. In September 2016, he was selected to succeed Marta Karolyi after the latter's retirement in August 2016. In 2017, the U.S. women continued to impress. First-year senior Morgan Hurd won the all-around title at the world championships last fall in Montreal.

Nastia Liukin, the only child of Valeri and Anna, recently posted a blog in which she revealed she had been subject to criticism by people who assumed she was continually supporting the actions of USA Gymnastics, apparently because of her family's association with the federation, and not the survivors of Nassar's abuse.

"This is an apology to anyone who had the perception I was not in complete support of my teammates and the women who have suffered at the hands of Larry Nassar," she wrote. "I continue to be in awe of my teammates and other women and the bravery it took for them to come forward with their own stories of Larry Nassar’s abuse. All week long I have been a witness to their testimonies live on my computer. They all inspire me with their courage. To compete on the biggest stage of our lives, while knowing the man on the floor with us was a monster, takes incredible fortitude and strength. His actions and assaults against my teammates, friends and other women are appalling and disgusting and I am so sorry they had to go through it alone."

Liukin, who wrote that she had faith in her father, added her voice calling for change for the next generation of American gymnasts.

"My hope is this is the beginning of positive change," she wrote. "I will do everything in my power to help our next generation never have to go through what my teammates went through. I, like so many others, believe many things could have been handled differently by USA Gymnastics. Many have written me asking why I continue to support them. Please believe me when I say I do NOT support the things I have read about or heard about. I do however support the future of gymnastics as a whole. I hope young women like Morgan (Hurd), Ragan (Smith), Riley (McCusker), Maile (O'Keefe), and so many others will one day feel safe within the sport, and can continue striving to achieve their own dreams. I am here for not just these young athletes but for all young women who want and deserve to feel and to be safe."

Liukin's resignation follows the exit of the entire board of USA Gymnastics, which was forced to resign by January 31 under threat of decertification by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Statement from Valeri Liukin

It is with a heavy heart that I resign as National Team Coordinator. I was truly looking forward to trying to turn this program around and bring success to our country and the gymnastics community. But the present climate causes me, and more importantly my family, far too much stress, difficulty and uncertainty.

I have loved gymnastics my entire life. Highlights were being fortunate enough to win my own Olympic medals and then coach my daughter to her Olympic Gold Medal — that was the proudest moment of my life.

It is time to move on in a different direction, at least for now. I wish the coaches and athletes continued success, and I stand ready to encourage and support all of them from a different vantage point.

Note: An earlier version of this article included allegations against Valeri Liukin without evidence they were related to his resignation and without seeking comment from him. IG and the author deeply regret the error.

Written by Amanda Turner    Friday, 02 February 2018 09:38    PDF Print
'What If This Had Happened To You?' — Father Lunges at Nassar in Court
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

A father whose three daughters were sexual abuse victims of former doctor Larry Nassar attempted to attack the disgraced doctor in court on Friday as Nassar's second hearing continued in Eaton County, Michigan.

A father whose three daughters were sexual abuse victims of former doctor Larry Nassar attempted to attack the disgraced doctor in court on Friday as Nassar's second hearing continued in Eaton County, Michigan.

Randall Margraves, who stood up alongside his daughters as they gave their statements, was admonished by Judge Cunningham for swearing at Nassar.

"I would ask you as part of this sentencing grant me five minutes in a locked room with this demon," asked Randall Margraves, who was wearing a union shirt representing IBEW Local 665, the Lansing union for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Judge Cunningham said that was not possible, and then Margraves asked for just one minute, which she again refused.

In a shocking moment, Margraves then rushed toward Nassar in the witness stand before Nassar's lawyer and the bailiffs tackled him to the ground.

"What if this had happened to you?" Margraves was heard asking the officers who arrested him and then hauled away from the courtroom in handcuffs.

A stunned Michigan Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis, the lead prosecutor in the case in both counties, turned around and strongly warned the gallery of survivors and their families, saying she did not want to see any more parents arrested.

"You cannot behave like this," Povilaitis said. "This is letting him have his power over us."

The first hearing in Ingham County revealed that at least four sets of sisters had been sexually abused by the disgraced former doctor. On Friday, it was revealed that all three Margraves sisters had been abused.

In November, Nassar pleaded guilty to sexual assault in a plea deal with the Attorney General and admitted sexually assaulting girls and women under the guise of "treatment" and that he had done it for his own sexual gratification.

However, a six-page letter of complaint he wrote during the first sentencing hearing was obtained by the Ingham County Sheriff and given to Ingham County Judge Rosemarie Aquilina. Before sentencing him to up to 175 years in prison, Aquilina revealed parts of the letter in court, revealing that he had written that he claimed to be innocent and that all the survivors accusing him had been brainwashed. Aquilina declined to read the entire letter or release it to the public; IG has learned it contained additional, highly disturbing remarks about certain survivors.

Nassar was also removed from the courtroom but after a delay, he returned and the sentencing hearing resumed.

Written by Amanda Turner    Wednesday, 31 January 2018 13:07    PDF Print
USA Gymnastics Board Resigns on Time per USOC Demand
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)

All members of the USA Gymnastics Board have resigned as requested by the United States Olympic Committee, USAG said Wednesday in a statement, meeting the first deadline in a list of six demands that USAG must meet or face decertification as the governing body for the sport of gymnastics.

"USA Gymnastics has received resignations from all of the members of its Board of Directors, as required by the United States Olympic Committee," USA Gymnastics said in a statement. "USA Gymnastics thanks the Board members for their service. We are grateful for the time and effort each has devoted to USA Gymnastics."

On January 25, a day after former doctor turned convicted pedophile Larry Nassar was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison on seven charges of sexual assault, USOC CEO Scott Blackmun sent a letter to USA Gymnastics threatening the federation with decertification. The letter came following massive public backlash against both organizations during the sentencing hearing of the former team doctor, during which 156 survivors of his horrific sexual abuse shocked the world with their ordeal and their outrage at the organizations, including USA Gymnastics and the USOC, which were accused of failing to protect athletes and allowing gymnasts to train under extremely abusive conditions.

The first of six requirements were that the USAG's entire board of directors must resign by January 31. Chairman Paul Parilla, Vice President Jay Binder and Treasurer Bitsy Kelley, all long-time board members, resigned on January 22, but only under USOC pressure. The trio had refused to heed calls to resign from outspoken members of the gymnastics community, including Nassar survivor Jamie Dantzscher. Dantzscher, the first gymnast to file suit against USA Gymnastics and the first well-known gymnast to accuse Nassar of sexual assault under the guise of medical treatment, had attended last summer's with fliers demanding Parilla, Binder and Kelley resign for their behavior and devoted support of ousted CEO Steve Penny, who likewise resigned only when the USOC forced his hand.

The second step in the USOC's list of requirements will be for USA Gymnastics to form an interim board by February 28, which USAG stated is underway.

"We are in the process of moving forward with forming an interim Board of Directors during the month of February, in accordance with the USOC's requirements. USA Gymnastics will provide information about this process within the next few days."

The entire board was forced to resign, including the most recently elected athlete representatives, who just joined the board on January 1. They will be eligible to join a future board if re-elected.

Click here to read the letter from the USOC in PDF format.

Former USA Gymnastics Board of Directors

Board Executives

Paul Parilla, Chairman (resigned January 22)
Jay Binder, Vice Chairman/Secretary (resigned January 22)
Bitsy Kelley, Treasurer (resigned January 22)

National Membership Directors
Kelli Hill, women
Tom Koll, women
Mike Burns, men
Yoichi Tomita, men
Natalia Kozitskaya, rhythmic gymnastics
Patti Conner, trampoline and tumbling
Carisa Laughon, acrobatic gymnastics

Advisory Council Directors
Casey Koenig
Kathy Krebs
Rome Milan

Athlete Directors (appointed January 1, 2018)
Steve Legendre, men
Ava Gehringer, rhythmic gymnastics
Ivana Hong, women
Dylan Maurer, acrobatic gymnastics
Austin White, trampoline and tumbling

Public Sector Directors
David Benck
Kevin Martinez
Cathy Rigby McCoy (appointed March 2017)

Written by Amanda Turner    Wednesday, 31 January 2018 01:41    PDF Print
Canadian Coach Arrested for Sexual Assault
(2 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Ontario gymnastics coach Scott McFarlane, 28, has been arrested for sexual assault on a minor, the third Canadian coach accused of sexual misconduct with young girls in the past two months.

A gymnastics coach from Mississauga, Ontario, has been arrested for sexual assault on a minor, the third Canadian coach accused of sexual misconduct with young girls in the past two months.

Scott McFarlane, 28, turned himself in on Sunday, three days after a Canada-wide arrest warrant was issued for him, regional police reported on Tuesday.

The Peel Regional Police said that a 15-year-old girl contacted law enforcement in early January to allege that her gymnastics coach had engaged in sexual activity with her over a four-year period.

McFarlane appeared in court on Monday and was charged one count each of sexual assault, sexual interference, luring a child under 16, making sexually explicit material available to a child under 16 and indecent exposure to a child. He was released on bail.

McFarlane coached for four years at Manjak's Gym in Mississauga until he was terminated last October. His dismissal was related to his social media activity, owner Kelly Manjak told CBC Toronto.

McFarlane was a provincial-level gymnast in Ontario, where he trained at Tumblers Gymnastics Centre in Orleans. He finished 25th all-around in the Open category at the 2012 Canadian Gymnastics Championships in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Manjak said that when he hired McFarlane, he provided references and a police background check. McFarlane had also worked in Ottawa and Oakville. Gymnastics BC stated that McFarlane had coached at summer camps in British Columbia.

"At Manjak's, we're devastated," said Manjak, who said he has not seen McFarlane since October. "Today I got the news myself... so it definitely affects us and my heart goes out to the victim."

Manjak was the coach of Olympic champion Kyle Shewfelt, who last week called for major overhauls in Canadian sports to protect athletes from sexual predators.

"Our policies in our club are going to tighten up, obviously," Manjak told CBC Toronto. "Hopefully we can continue to eliminate this kind of situation in our sport."

McFarlane has been suspended indefinitely by both Gymnastics Ontario and Gymnastics Canada.

Gymnastics Ontario CEO Dave Sandford said Tuesday that Gymnastics Ontario was aware of a previous allegation against McFarlane, and in October the provincial federation suspended McFarlane for three months. Sandford said he was not able to discuss any other details of the first allegation, per the federation's policies.

In a statement, Gymnastics Canada Chairman Richard Crépin offered support for the gymnast who made the accusation again McFarlane.

"Our hearts go out to the victim in this case," Crépin said, "and we want her, and the rest of our community to know that we will not rest until this type of behaviour no longer finds a home in the sport of gymnastics."

In the spring of 2017, Gymnastics Canada began an overhaul of its policies in the wake of the ongoing sexual abuse scandal at USA Gymnastics that has stunned the gymnastics world. In a two month-span, McFarlane is the third coach suspended by Gymnastics Canada for sexual misconduct following Michel Arsenault and Canadian women's national coach Dave Brubaker in December.

In early December, Arsenault was accused of sexually abusing three former gymnasts in the 1980s and '90s in Quebec. Arsenault was suspended by Gymnastics Canada but not charged with any crimes. However, last week, the Sûreté du Québec announced it was actively investigating an unidentified gymnastics coach after seven women came forward to file complaints alleging sexual assault in the early 1990s, when they were then between 7 to 20 years old. Radio-Canada Sports confirmed the individual being investigated was Arsenault, who left Quebec in 1994 and settled in Edmonton, Alberta.

In mid-December, Brubaker was arrested and charged with 10 offenses relating to sexual misconduct with a minor in Sarnia, Ontario. A publication ban has been placed on the case to protect the identity of the individual making the accusation. Brubaker was released on bail and is due in court on February 6.

"Gymnastics Canada has a zero-tolerance policy for any type of behaviour that puts the safety and well-being of our participants at risk," Crépin said. "More than words though, it's actions that count. Our top priority is building a safe environment for our participants by enhancing the policies and mechanisms we have in place so that our athletes and coaches are safe and secure and so parents feel confident that their children are safe. We are also working in close collaboration with our provincial partners to develop updated policies and to ensure alignment in key areas such as background screening, conduct, and the development of a safe sport framework that will focus on policies, procedures, education, and alignment throughout the system."

The Peel Regional Police, which covers the municipalities of Brampton, Caledon and Mississauga, has asked anyone with information to come forward and stated they are looking for other alleged victims.

Anyone with information in relation to this incident is asked to contact investigators at the Special Victims Unit at 905-453-2121, ext. 3460. Anonymous information may also be submitted by calling Peel Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), by visiting or by sending a text message to CRIMES (274637) with the word "PEEL" and then your tip.

Written by Amanda Turner    Tuesday, 30 January 2018 14:27    PDF Print
57 Survivors to Confront Nassar at Second Sentencing Hearing
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)

Disgraced former doctor Larry Nassar will face a second sentencing hearing on Wednesday in Eaton County, Michigan, where 57 survivors are expected to deliver victim impact statements, joining the 156 who spoke in the historic hearing January 16-24 in neighboring Ingham County.

Disgraced former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar will face a second sentencing hearing on Wednesday in Eaton County, Michigan, where 57 survivors are expected to deliver victim impact statements, following the 156 who spoke in the historic hearing January 16-24 in neighboring Ingham County.

It is unknown if the 57 returning allowed to speak a second time, as it appears the court will allow. Tuesday's announcement by the Michigan Attorney General's Office could bring the total to 213 survivors coming forward to speak publicly by the shocking sexual abuse they suffered from Nassar, a once-respected USA Gymnastics and U.S. Olympic team doctor who worked as a team physician and associate professor at Michigan State University. The heartbreaking testimonies in the Ingham County case shocked the world, galvanized an already surging #MeToo movement, and has launched multiple investigations into the institutions that have been accused of ignoring and enabling the now-convicted pedophile. MSU President Lou Anna Simons and the entire board of USA Gymnastics have been forced to resign.

On January 24, Judge Rosemarie E. Aquilina sentenced Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison, above the prosecutor's recommendation of 40 to 125 years in prison. Nassar must serve the sentence after he completes his federal sentence of 60 years on three charges related to child pornography, an unlikely circumstance for the 54-year-old former physician. Nassar is appealing both sentences.

In sentencing Nassar, Judge Aquilina referenced a letter she had obtained from the Ingham County Sheriff late on the second day of the hearing. She revealed a few lines of the letter on the third day of the hearing, revealing that he wrote complaints that he found it too mentally taxing to listen to so many of his victims and that the judge was turning the sentencing into a media circus to seek attention for herself. He later delivered a short apology in which he claimed he was truly broken up by the impact statements. When she sentenced him, however, she revealed more of the letter, in which, despite his professed apology and, he again claimed that he was a legitimate, respected doctor and that all his former patients had been brainwashed by the media into believing he had assaulted them, and that he had only pleaded guilty.

"I was a good doctor, because my treatments worked and those patients that are now speaking out were the same ones that praised and came back," Nassar wrote. "Now they are seeking the media attention and financial reward."

When Aquilina asked him if he would like to withdraw his guilty plea and plead not guilty, he declined.

Led by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, the Attorney General's Office investigated and prosecuted Nassar with the help of the Michigan State University Police Department, and initially charged Nassar with 22 felonies on November 22, 2016. After a year of maintaining his innocence, Nassar agreed to plead guilty to seven charges of criminal sexual conduct on November 22, 2016, in Ingham County, home to the MSU campus. A week later he pleaded guilty to three more counts in Eaton County, related to sexual assaults of minors between 2009 and 2011 at Gedderts' Twistars club in Dimondale. As part the plea agreement with the state, Nassar agreed to open sentencing hearings in which any victim who had filed a complaint against him with the Michigan authorities could deliver a victim impact statements.

Eaton County Circuit Court Judge Janice Cunningham will preside over the hearing, which is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Court will be closed Thursday but the hearing is expected to continue Friday and into next week if necessary, the Attorney General's office stated. As in Ingham County, the prosecutor has requested a minimum sentence of 40 years to a maximum of 125 years.

Assistant Attorney General Angela Povilaitis will again prosecute the case. In her sentencing memo to Judge Cunningham, she noted the devastation Nassar's has caused and his lack of remorse.

"As one victim so eloquently stated, society sometimes sees one victim as a tragedy, but a hundred victims as a statistic," she wrote. "What the Court will see and hear is the destruction this Defendant's criminal actions have wrought in the victims' lives, their families' lives, and in the community at large. As evidenced from his self-serving statement at the plea hearing in Ingham County and the letter he wrote and that was read by Judge Aquilina during his Ingham County sentencing hearing, defendant has shown no remorse for his acts or the pain and destruction they have caused."

Povilaitis noted in her closing argument on January 24 that Nassar's fate lies in the hands of women. Povilaitis' team consists of three female prosecutors, and both judges in Michigan, as well as the federal judge, are all female.

"The fact that the women led the investigation, the prosecution team and that three female judges now sentence defendant Nassar is poetic justice," she said.


Page 10 of 230