Photo: Rich Pedroncelli (AP)

When Li Li Leung, USA Gymnastics’ fourth CEO in under two years, came to the job in February, she had her work cut out for her. She’s been tasked with guiding the organization as it attempts to resolve dozens of lawsuits, survive a bankruptcy, and restore trust with a community of athletes USAG has failed repeatedly and catastrophically.

Despite all these obstacles, some observers met Leung’s hiring with cautious optimism. So far, however, Leung and USAG have done little to reward that optimism, and a fresh round of missteps has once again made it easy to wonder why USAG is even worth attempting to save.

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Since Leung took over, USAG has once again broken its own record for the shortest tenure of a new hire. On April 29, the organization announced that Dr. Edward Nyman had been appointed its first-ever full-time director of sports medicine and science. Putting aside the initial shock that a sport’s national governing body didn’t have someone in this position in the first place, this was a step in the right direction.

But the very next day, the organization released another statement: Nyman would be removed from the position due to an unspecified conflict of interest. The Orange County Register later revealed that the “conflict of interest” was that Nyman failed to disclose abuse allegations against his wife, a gym owner. Sources told the OC Register that USAG actually became aware of those abuse allegations back in 2017, and that Nyman is also facing his own allegations of misconduct with SafeSport.

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This confusing piece of news came as the organization was already reeling from a PR debacle Leung created during her April 24 appearance on the Today Show. Leung said on the show that she was treated by Larry Nassar, but that she wasn’t abused by him because she had one of her coaches in the room during her examination. Survivors and the gymnastics community at large quickly caught on to this comment, noting that many survivors testified that a parent was in the room when they were assaulted by Nassar.

At best, Leung’s statement demonstrated a grave misunderstanding of how Nassar operated and was able to evade capture for so long. At worst, it implied that Nassar’s victims could have somehow avoided being abused if only they’d taken greater precautions. Leung later apologized on Twitter, saying “I understand how my comment seems insensitive.”

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Meanwhile, on May 2, USAG athlete representative Terin Humphrey created a Facebook post featuring an image of enraged coaches yelling at football players. “What Champions consider coaching is what some consider abuse,” the image read. Olympic gymnast Kathy Johnson Clarke responded to the post on Twitter, saying that the attitude demonstrated in Humphrey’s post “creates the perfect storm and ideal space and opportunity for predators, pedophiles and abusive coaches to hide in plain sight.” Humphrey has since defended her post.

Leung’s tenure has done little to convince anyone that USAG is ready to become an organization capable of doing anything other than repeatedly stepping on rakes. Going back to the hiring and firing of short-lived CEO Mary Bono and development coordinator Mary Lee Tracy, the organization has continuously failed to anticipate how its words and actions will be perceived by survivors and the rest of the gymnastics community. Those mistakes get pounced on, an apology is issued, someone maybe gets sacked, and then nothing changes. It’s a cycle that continues to repeat even as USAG insists that it is learning from it’s errors.

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What if instead of learning from their mistakes, USAG proactively learned from the people who know the most about what went wrong in the first place: the survivors?

Leung herself has said, “I cannot know all necessary steps to take until I hear [the survivors’] stories.” And survivors seem to agree: Some have criticized the organization for not meeting with them and not involving them in the hiring process for the new CEO. Leung later told Marie Claire she has had “some communication” with survivors, but then said in a Bustle interview and in her Today Show interview that she hasn’t met them, only spoken to their counsel.

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Therein lies the structural problem that undermines USAG’s entire reason for existing. The organization is currently being sued by scores of gymnasts who were abused by Nassar, and thus finds itself in the impossible position of needing to mend relationships with and advocate for the very same constituents they are trying to defeat in court. USAG can’t even speak to the victims without opening itself up to potential legal problems. When Mary Lee Tracy was hired as a new development coordinator and allegedly attempted to contact Aly Raisman, she was promptly fired.

According to Jennifer Drobac a professor at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law, it’s customary for the two parties in a lawsuit not to contact each other, for fear that someone will put their foot in their mouth (though USAG doesn’t seem to be too worried about saying the wrong thing in public). “It’s very easy to not address a question properly and be inartful and inaccurate. That’s why we have lawyers to speak for us,” she said. “USAG knows it has a huge problem. It doesn’t want to exacerbate a problem by saying the wrong thing to a survivor.”

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USAG filing for bankruptcy complicates things further, says Pamela Foohey of the Indiana University Maurer School of Law. “With the bankruptcy proceeding comes the automatic stay, which limits communications between creditors and the debtor,” she says. Instead, the survivors are represented by a committee that includes nine former gymnasts and acts in their interest.

A mediator has been ordered to settle the bankruptcy dispute between USAG and the committee, and depending on the terms of the mediation, it could lead to some of the necessary organizational changes. According to the Wall Street Journal, the chosen judge has mediated at least one case against the Roman Catholic Church in which “provisions aimed at protecting children from future abuse” were promised. And though Foohey says it’s hard to know how the mediation will play out without direct involvement in the case, “based on prior somewhat similar cases, both monetary and non-monetary compromises should be on the table. And the survivors should be directly involved through the committee created especially for them.” This could be a step forward for the organization, as long as it goes better than a February bankruptcy meeting between a few survivors and USAG’s new CFO—the closest we’ve gotten to a meeting between the organization and survivors—which was called “frustrating” due to a lack of answers.

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Depending on how the mediation goes, it could take anywhere from a few months to a year to multiple years to reach a resolution, Foohey says. That’s a long time for gymnasts to go without an organization that can actually function, especially with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics looming. And if USAG can’t be trusted to fix itself, and can’t involve the people that would help for at least the next year, then why should it go on existing at all?

The U.S. Olympic Committee determined that it shouldn’t, at least at first. In November, the organization took the first steps toward decertifying USAG. But a month later, USAG filed for bankruptcy. Some speculated that USAG filed for bankruptcy in order to stave off justice and avoid decertification, though USAG claims that it did so to help process claims with survivors more quickly by lumping the claims together.

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Whatever the reason, filing for bankruptcy worked in USAG’s favor: USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland first said the bankruptcy proceeding would not affect decertification but later declared the decertification process would be halted “out of respect for the independence of the hearing panel and in deference to the bankruptcy court handling that proceeding.”

If this decision sounds confusing, that’s because it is. USOC could ask the bankruptcy court for permission to continue the decertification process, but it has yet to do so. The Senate finance committee is confused, too; in an April 23 letter, the committee demanded to know why USOC flip-flopped on the decision when USAG declared bankruptcy.

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For whatever reason, USOC does not want to proceed with decertification. As such, USAG will be allowed to continue blundering without survivor input or any real consequence; Leung for one seems confident that it will. But USOC can’t continue to ignore that USAG is still proceeding with business as usual, bankruptcy or not, and that includes all the dysfunction we’ve come to expect from the organization.

On the day USOC announced that it was moving to decertify USAG, CEO Sarah Hirshland told gymnasts, “You deserve better.” They still do.