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United States

Mary Bono resigns after five days as US gymnastics chief following Simone Biles, Aly Raisman criticism

Former Republican politician leaves as interim CEO of embattled governing body over ‘personal attacks’, amid stinging criticism from Olympic stars Simone Biles and Aly Raisman

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2018, 10:13am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2018, 10:31pm

The newly appointed head of USA Gymnastics resigned just days after being named to the job on Tuesday following stinging criticism of her appointment by Olympic stars Simone Biles and Alexandra Raisman.

Former Republican politician Mary Bono, who had only been revealed as interim chief of the embattled governing body on Friday, said she was quitting over “personal attacks” that made her position untenable.

“It is with profound regret, coupled with a deep love for the sport of gymnastics and respect for those who aspire to be great gymnasts, that I today tendered my resignation as the interim CEO of USA Gymnastics,” Bono said in a statement.

“My withdrawal comes in the wake of personal attacks that left undefended, would have made my leading USAG a liability for the organisation.”

Bono’s future in her new role had looked increasingly precarious after criticism by both Biles and Raisman concerning her appointment.

The 56-year-old executive drew the ire of Olympic superstar Biles after a tweet posted by Bono last month surfaced that was critical of apparel maker Nike following the company’s ad campaign featuring ex-NFL star Colin Kaepernick.

Simone Biles astonished after anti-Nike tweet from stand-in USA Gymnastics CEO

Bono posted a photo of herself blacking out a Nike logo on a golf shoe as she took part in a charity golf tournament to honour members of the US military.

In response, the Nike-sponsored Biles tweeted on Saturday: “*mouth drop* … don’t worry, it’s not like we needed a smarter usa gymnastics president, or any sponsors or anything.”

Raisman, meanwhile, blasted the decision to hire Bono on Monday in a series of strongly worded posts on Twitter that drew attention to the executive’s previous work with law firm Faegre Baker Daniels.

Raisman claimed that the legal company had advised USA Gymnastics during the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal, asserting that the company had helped “cover up” the former team doctor’s crimes before they erupted into public view.

“My teammates & I reported Nassar’s abuse to USAG in 2015,” wrote Raisman.

“We now know USOC & lawyers at Faegre Baker Daniels [Mary Bono’s firm] were also told then, yet Nassar continued to abuse children for 13 months!?

Ex-Olympic doctor Larry Nassar sentenced to a further 40 to 125 years in prison for child abuse

“Why hire someone associated with the firm that helped cover up our abuse?”

Nassar abuse survivor Raisman, an Olympic gold medallist in 2012 and 2016, is suing both USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee over the scandal.

Nassar was jailed for life this year for abusing more than 250 athletes, including many stars of the USA’s victorious 2012 and 2016 Olympic women’s gymnastics squads.

“Survivors, current gymnasts, families, coaches, gymnastics community & fans deserve better,” Raisman wrote on Monday.

In her resignation statement on Tuesday, Bono defended her work with Faegre Baker Daniels as well as her criticism of Kaepernick, whose decision to kneel during the US national anthem to draw attention to racial injustice has been criticised by some as disrespectful to the military and unpatriotic.

“I proudly stand behind my body of work at Faegre Baker Daniels, and appreciated how much the law firm supported my devoting considerable time to the cause of addiction prevention, treatment and recovery,” Bono said.

‘I lost control’: father of Larry Nassar victims apologises after lunging at Olympic child molester in court

“With respect to Mr Kaepernick, he nationally exercised his first amendment right to kneel. I exercised mine: to mark over on my own golf shoes, the logo of the company sponsoring him.”

Bono, meanwhile, said she believed she could have made a success of the job, citing her own experience as a young gymnast of seeing at first-hand what she described as the “assaulting behaviour of a coach”.

“I would have brought a fire in the belly to ensure that no one as taken with gymnastics as I was at that age, should have to choose between abuse and ambition, or between properly speaking out and promoting success.”

United States Olympic Committee chief Sarah Hirshland described the debacle surrounding Bono’s departure as “unfortunate”.

“The USOC is committed to working hard with the USAG board to find the right leader who can build gymnastics up to the world-class organisation we know that it can and should be,” Hirshland said in a statement.

Bono’s whirlwind tenure is another humiliating body blow to USA Gymnastics, which has lurched from one self-inflicted crisis to the next as it struggles to rebuild in the aftermath of the Nassar scandal.

Bono took over after USA Gymnastics was forced to part company with chief executive Kerry Perry last month.

Perry resigned under pressure from the US Olympic Committee after only nine months in the job.

Her departure came after the appointment and resignation of elite coach Mary Lee Tracy – who had made comments supportive of Nassar in 2016 when allegations of abuse against him had begun to emerge.