Things Are Happening – June 6, 2018

A. That Senate Hearing

You guys. I cannot even begin.

Yes I can. Let’s get into it.

(Watch here. Except probably don’t. Your life is worth more than that. RESPECT YOURSELF.)

Anyway, Rhonda Faehn, Lou Anna Simon, and “Steve Penny” appeared in front of a Senate subcommittee so that a bunch of senators could congratulate each other for how awesome they are for most of the hearing—and then rush the panelists to spit out answers quickly because suddenly they’re running out of time for questions. Oh, I wonder how that happened.

Dear Senators, the thing about your epic opening statement is that nobody cares about you and you don’t have anything to say. You know how annoyed you get when a no-personality youngun is running around making an endless and pointless video about how little personality they have? That’s you, in these hearings. You’re the SnapChat in this situation.

Whatever. The most important thing we have to talk about is Steve Penny taking the 5th and refusing to answer any questions. Well, except for the first question that was like, “Is your name Steve and do you suck?” You know he wanted to take the 5th on that one too, but it was just a biographical statement of fact, so he had to say yes. After that, no answers.

Everyone has to use this opportunity to remind each other that taking the 5th doesn’t necessarily imply guilt. But also Steve Penny.

Ultimately, his taking the 5th didn’t matter all that much because he was never going to say anything anyway, and plenty of vital information about him came out in the hearing regardless, in both the questioning and in Rhonda’s submitted emails. Senator Blumenthal read a memo from 2013 (!) from Steve Penny to a USOC employee saying, “If Larry Nassar is the gatekeeper, then we have a real issue,” as well as a message from Ron Galimore to That Guy in 2014 regarding a “code of silence” that Penny knew about.

I don’t think this is the last we’ll hear about what Penny and others actually knew about Nassar in the 2013-14 period. Because it seems like kind of a lot, which would contradict…everything.

I REALLY wish they had kept Penny there for 17 hours and read every single one of his emails aloud to him and just made him repeat his little BS spiel about how he so desperately wanted to be able to answer their questions but couldn’t—over and over and over again. These are the things I find entertaining.

Also things I find entertaining: Amy Compton shouting “SHAME!” as Steve Penny hobbled out of the hearing after 0.25 questions. Solid work.

Now let’s get to Rhonda. For the most part, her testimony seemed to reinforce the impressions we’ve already developed about who she was in all of this: Someone who didn’t ignore what had happened, at least tried to do something about it, and was actively misled by her superior regarding how it was being handled, but also someone who needed to have been more active, been more educated about her responsibilities, and not taken the easy way out of believing Steve Penny was handling things for a year and a half despite being quite familiar with his character and how of course he wasn’t.

But really, I think we all wished many of the questions directed at Rhonda could have been directed at Steve Penny. And I’m sure the senators wished that too.

The most vital and revealing information, especially for those of us who’ve been following this and know the major players and timeline (so, unlike the senators…), came not from Rhonda’s answers in the hearing but from her submitted documents. I’m not linking to them here because they include some identities of possible victims of That Guy who had not made that information public. That should have been redacted (along with the phone numbers at the top of text-message screenshots), but it wasn’t. That’s not cool. Still, it’s easy to find these documents if you feel like you can handle the information responsibly, because there’s some GOOD stuff.

[BTW: The character letters submitted by other coaches on Rhonda’s behalf also include all kinds of phone numbers and addresses and personal information that people didn’t want to be made public, but I’m kind of like…then why did YOU include that in your submission FOR THE RECORD in the first place? Are you new? Do you know things? Try a cover letter. I’m less sympathetic for these people. What did you think this submission was for?]

Significantly, in these documents Sarah Jantzi chose to share with the world for the first time that she had a phone conversation with Steve Penny directly after she reported to Rhonda, and in it Steve Penny told her specifically not to contact law enforcement (!) and that it was already being investigated at that point (?).

Things that don’t look good for Steve Penny: Volume 157.

We also learned that Penny emailed a bunch of people on July 21, 2015 to tell them not to talk about That Guy, contacted That Guy on July 22 to tell him he was being investigated for his “treatments,” and then only later contacted the FBI on July 27.

But, you know, no one could talk about That Guy because the FBI said it might jeopardize the investigation. OK.

Things that don’t look good for Steve Penny: Volume 158.

In other news, Rhonda was never contacted for the Daniels report, by the FBI, or for the INDEPENDENT ROPES & GRAY investigation. Because why would you want to find out what she knew?

We all have so much hope for INDEPENDENT ROPES & GRAY.

Meanwhile, Lou Anna Simon couldn’t figure out how to turn her mic on EVERY SINGLE DAMN TIME she tried to talk, and it was insufferable. Almost as insufferable as when she tried to play the “how could we have known before 2016?” card in her opening statement (you know that card), even though there was a Title IX investigation in 2014.

I also sort of resented her incessant focus on how we need to make sure people directly involved feel they can speak up and trust their guts because (while…yes, sure) people involved DID speak up and were shut down by MSU employees every damn time. The former president of MSU suddenly saying people need to feel they have the power to speak up even without evidence is like if Martha Karolyi suddenly said there should be athlete chaperones at national camps…

Oh wait. Martha did say exactly that in the definitely-written-by-her statement she provided to the subcommittee. Somehow, the committee allowed Martha to get away with not attending in person, but she did provide a preposterous letter that you should read. The best part is her sudden recommendation about athlete chaperones, which she cares a super ton about. Starting now. Please ignore that it’s the exact opposite of HER WHOLE THING when she was the national team coordinator and parents couldn’t attend camps or see their children during competitions.

Well, actually the best part of Martha’s involvement is how she said she couldn’t attend the hearing for medical reasons. Oh. Oh really. Excuse me while I BAHAHAHAHA.

My point exactly.

B. Anything else?

Sort of.

In national championship news, former US elite Frida Esparza is now representing Mexico and is already the national all-around champion, taking the title with 51.133. Alexa Moreno also reappeared at this competition to record the highest vault score, both of which are exceptionally welcome developments for a Mexican squad that hasn’t looked super deep or competitive so far this quad.

In world cup news, it was a veteran parade at Koper as Giulia Steingruber did in fact elect to upgrade to normal Steingruber difficulty for the event finals to win both vault and floor, while Barbora Mokosova took bars and Celine Van Gerner of the Netherlands returned for her first competition since Rio to win the beam title. Dr. Epke also make a comeback on high bar, though the show was stolen by Oliver Hegi’s magnificent plummet to knock over his coach. You tried.

Denisa Golgota took three medals (two silvers, one bronze), and it’s the only thing keeping you going.

The provisional registration list for this year’s world championship has been released. This is the pre-, pre-, pre-, pre-list and means very little, but it is notable for the absence of any Cuban women. Cuba is planning to send two men and zero women to worlds, at least at this point. Cuba was also late to the registration party last year but got Ferrera and Vidiaux there in the end.

Currently, 52 countries are hoping to send women’s squads large enough to achieve a team score to this year’s world championship. This number will dwindle as we go along, but it’s worth noting that the new team size and format mean that nations sending as few as three gymnasts could get a team score as long as everyone does the all-around in qualification. That should ultimately increase the number of nations vying for team totals compared to years past.

C. NCAA news

The NCAA Coaching Exchange Program is in full swing yet again this summer.

Following the firing of Bryan Raschilla, Alabama has hired WOGA coach Ryan Roberts to be its new assistant. You’ll remember him as the one who wasn’t Laurent anymore. WOGA is such a revolving door these days.

Meanwhile, Mary McDaniel has left Auburn (she’s the one who came in after Jenny Rowland went to Florida), with that Auburn assistant job now being taken by Ashley Priess, who is quickly ascending the NCAA coaching ranks. At up-and-coming Utah State, Amy Smith and Whitnee Johnson will be joined by Erik Lewis as the third coach to round out the staff this year.

In roster news, Anne Maxim—a freshman at Michigan State last season—is transferring to Michigan. It’s a lot tougher to make a Michigan lineup, but she’ll hope to provide options on VT, UB, and possibly FX. At Maryland, Tiara Wright is transferring in after three years at West Virginia. Wright missed 2018 but was a bars standout for scores as high as 9.900 in prior years. Keep looking out for Maryland and bars. It’s a thing.

D. GymCastic

This week‘s episode breaking down the Senate and House hearings in detail is up!

We also discuss a little bit of actual gymnastics, just to remind ourselves that it’s a thing, and get an exclusive update directly from Bart Deurloo about the state of his balls. Yes, that actually happened.



20 thoughts on “Things Are Happening – June 6, 2018”

  1. Thanks for the gymcastic update- reallllly looking forward to your recap.

  2. The Rhonda Faehn testimony that I read was redacted so you must have had access to a very early copy? Anyway, as it should be but some important timeline info in there for sure.

  3. Is Anne maxim going to have to sit out a year for transferring in conference? Or are the athletes given a pass because of what’s going on at the school? I know with Pen state football when they had the scandal there the athletes were allowed to transfer anywhere without being penalized or having to sit out a year

    1. No, the Big 10 conference doesn’t have a rule of sitting out a year for gymnastics. Abby Epperson transferred from Maryland to Nebraska and didn’t have to sit out a year.

  4. I read the Martha statement, and then the employment agreement with USAG. Aside from the absurdity of her statement, I was surprised to see that USAG paid her $50k/year as a contractor, with NO benefits. How is that possible!? I know it was about 18 years ago, but still…. seems incredibly low. (In hindsight it was $50k too much)

    1. I thought the same thing too! It’s only around $70k in 2018 dollars.

  5. they want to suggest that according to Indiana law Faehn had a duty to report directly to LE, but Aly Raisman had just turned 21 at the end of May 2015 making her a legal adult as well in every state in the union so at the time she reported to Faehn did she NOT have an obligation to report as well – if she knew of the complaints from her roommate McKayla Maroney and other gymnasts …. I want to be sympathetic but a large lawsuit on the behalf of Raisman raises my suspicion over the ultimate motivation for this anger toward Faehn who in my mind is a very sympathetic figure in this tragic saga

    1. You’re suggesting a newly turned 21 yo abuse victim as being in the same category as an adult in an authority position as far as what action should have been taken? At that point Aly didn’t even know it was abuse. Shame.

      1. Aly stated that she did NOT like for Dr Nassar to come to her Room at night to give he treatments that they made her very uncomfortable which I am sure this was discussed with her Mother – so obviously she knew that this was NOT normal – but by the time Faehn came into the picture she was well aware that it was abuse – and Faehn was blindsided with these horrific stories – so I am just suggesting to YOU that you are placing all of this weight on a sympathetic individual that literally still has her baggage in the car, but by this time Raisman and her Mother are well aware of Nassar’s Modus Operandi and could have easily done as Rachel Denhollander did and contact LE on their own as should have countless more souls or their Parents back at Michigan State .. Faehn as she testified to earlier this week NEVER met Larry Nassar, Never talked to Larry Nassar – had NO relationship with the man and within six weeks of her firing he was dismissed – so Faehn did her part – and as she also testified – she did NOT even know who was Nassar’s primary employer so she would NOT have thought to contact Michigan State -and as Rachel Denhollander has suggested Michigan State knew long ago about the allegations of abuse but had chose NOT to pursue action against Nassar. I would Love for a deeper investigation to occur at MSU because something does NOT add up there – to find out if even one parent ever visited a police station or sheriff’s office because it just does NOT make sense that you could have that much abuse occurring and NOT one mother or father was not troubled enough to go to LE …. but I feel for the victims but I just think many of them are misplacing their anger – and I am troubled that some may have now be accentuating their anger for monetary reasons

      2. i cannot find an edit function, but above I incorrectly said that Nassar was gone within six weeks of her firing and it should have been her HIRING

    2. Seriously, John, you’re spinning out on nearly every BBS post. Are you related to Rhonda or something?

      1. No I attended UF where Faehn led the Gators to 3 National Titles and she is being railroaded after literally ONLY having worked for team usa for 37 days – Faehn herself was an elite gymnast who trained under the Karolyi’s prior to them opening the “ranch” in the late 80’s and early 90’s so she is aware of the intensity of training at that level – but it is also surprising that many of the gold medalist in the 90’s and early 2000’s including as recently as Nastia Liukin, Carly Patterson, Shannon Miller and that entire 96 team which included and you maybe to young to remember Kerri Strug who captured the hearts of america when she sprained her ankle and still pulled off a dramatic vault routine to secure the gold for her teammates – with a then heralded coach nassar standing on the sidelines … and NONE of those athletes to my knowledge of come forward with any charges of abuse … most of them have chosen to be supportive but have remained mostly quiet about their contact with Nassar …. so there is a LOT of room for further investigation in this matter but Faehn came into this picture very late and if she had known what she knows now she would still be in Gainesville, FL where GATOR NATION LOVES HER!!!

      1. we are NOT discussing any athlete but one – and that is Aly Raisman who was 21 when she approached Faehn and USA Gym – she was certainly of an age that she could report to LE or anybody else she chose – Faehn had literally just walked in the door after her long tenure at UF – what a welcoming package and it is my hope that Rhonda Faehn is allowed to distance herself from USA and return back to the collegiate ranks where she was greatly admired – but these Gymnast are hurting future gymnast by tarnishing good coaches like Faehn and Nastia Liukin and her much heralded father who was also let go in this rush to judgement in cleaning house of anyone that was in a management role at USA – Need to slow the housecleaning and just examine and improve the reporting mechanisms and make the necessary improvements that would help accomplish that goal. The Karolyi’s and Liukin and others have a LONG History of producing the top gymnasts in the world and I am sure all of those coaches are horrified by the Nassar saga and want to insure that nothing like this happens again – and think the overwhelming majority of the coaches associated with USA Gymnastics are dedicated souls that want the best for these young Ladies

    3. I’m not saying the firing or the steps Rhonda took were right or wrong. Maybe everything will show she did all in her power to handle the situation. What I’m saying, is to hold the same standards towards reporting abuse shouldn’t be equal for Rhonda, Aly, Maggie or any of the Final 5 (because we are all adults at the age of 18) is wrong.

    4. Aly was not an employee. She was not legally obligated to report her abuse or that of others to anyone. Rhonda Faehn was. RF was responsible for minors.
      In the future, USAG policy could address this by making a rule that any adult athlete who is made aware of possible abuse of a minor athlete is obligated to report, and then they would need to educate adult athletes on such policies (that the organization is going above and beyond the law to make adult athletes mandatory reporters per organizational policy). But that isn’t the law. Aly was not legally responsible for any children in her care, she was an athlete who was abused and heard about others being abused as well, and had every right (legally and morally) to do what she needed to make sense of out what happened and figure out how to move forward. We see her in the place she is now as an advocate but this takes time to get to that place and some may never be able to because of the abuse. Trying to put the onus on her because she was a legal adult is both untenable and offensive. I think many in the gym community can see that, without today’s hindsight, the situation Rhonda was in was complicated: she did not do all that she should have, which is a serious problem, but she also did do something, and that’s more than many others. She’s also expressed what seems to be genuine concern and regret for how things went down. She was one of many who failed on some level, but she’s very far from the worst of the worst characters in this situation.
      I am sure this is tough for her right now, but I see lots of hope for her moving forward in life towards more great opportunities and putting this behind her. I don’t think she needs to be worried about.

      1. everybody except dr nassar was a victim and this was a highly unusual case for the coaches – I am sure they are sensitive to monitoring for abuse – physical and mental from other coaching peers but not from the team physician, who often has little contact with the coaches in many sports – but you are correct that clearer and more visible policies and mechanisms need to be put in place for the reporting of abuse and the FBI and LE need to come up with clearer jurisdictional oversight so that individuals can know who is the best agency within LE to report suspected abuse to … but i still would like a more rigorous investigation back at MSU and find out if any parents reported their suspicions over the years to east lansing LE – just hard for me to fathom that none of the parents would not have come forward over a 20 year period.

  6. John Scott Clopton,

    Are you seriously suggesting Rhonda is the victim here? Mandatory reporting laws are in place to protect minors. It is not the responsibility of the victims to report their abuse. Rhonda broke the law by reporting the abuse to Steve Penny, not to child protective services or law enforcement. Suggesting Aly should have self reported is victim blaming.

    Plenty of parents came forward in Michigan, but the cases were dismissed by police and MSU employees. Many family members and victims themselves were unaware they were being abused.

    Your comments are so problematic in placing blame on victims and their parents. Victims and their families have enough guilt to deal with, without these unhelpful attacks.

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