USA Gymnastics hires NBA exec Li Li Leung as CEO

Li Li Leung spent two years watching USA Gymnastics struggle through the aftermath of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. A former college gymnast at the University of Michigan who still considered herself “embedded” in the sport while serving as a vice president with the NBA, Leung kept waiting for things to get better.

Only they didn’t. Leadership changed. More and more survivors stepped forward to detail their experiences at the hands of Nassar, a former national team doctor now serving an effective life sentence. The United States Olympic Committee began the process of stripping USA Gymnastics of its status as the national governing body.

One of the U.S. Olympic movement’s marquee programs was fighting for its survival.

“I was frankly very, very disappointed in terms of where the sport and the organization had gotten,” Leung said.

So disappointed that she felt compelled to come home. USA Gymnastics hired Leung as its president and chief executive officer Tuesday.

“I have bled, sweated and cried alongside my teammates as well as other team members and other gymnasts,” Leung said. “And it really broke my heart to see where the sport was. We can do better for the sport. … Our gymnasts deserve better.”

Leung, 45, who will begin her new position March 8, competed as a member of a U.S. junior national training team and represented the U.S. in the 1988 Junior Pan American Games. She helped Michigan win four Big Ten titles during her college career and served as a volunteer assistant gymnastics coach while earning two master’s degrees at the University of Massachusetts.

She returns to the sport in which she started at age 7, hoping to prevent USA Gymnastics from being decertified by the USOC.

USA Gymnastics filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December in an effort to reach settlements in the dozens of sex-abuse lawsuits it faces from athletes who blame the group for failing to supervise Nassar.

Leung said she has spoken to USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland and that “both sides are committed to working closely to resolve the decertification request.”

Leung is the fourth person to hold the position of president and CEO in the past two years. Steve Penny resigned under pressure in March 2017; Kerry Perry lasted less than a year when she stepped down under heavy scrutiny from the USOC in September; and former U.S. Rep. Mary Bono resigned after just four days, saying she thought her affiliation would be a “liability” after a social-media post by Bono criticizing ex-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick drew scrutiny.

Will Graves is an Associated Press writer.

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