THE BIG PICTURE: USA Gymnastics’ future collides with its present over the next seven days

The 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials in Artistic Gymnastics will be at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis (Photo: USA Gymnastics)

On Tuesday, USA Gymnastics announced that the 2020 Olympic Trials in Artistic Gymnastics will be held at the Enterprise Center in St. Louis, Missouri from 25-28 June 2020, in a show of confidence in the future of the organization.

Next Monday (29th) is the deadline for individuals to file sexual-abuse claims against USA Gymnastics, with the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana. Anyone not filing by that date (by 4 p.m. Eastern time) will be “forever barred, estopped and enjoined” from asserting a claim against the organization in the future.

These two dates encapsulate the dual tracks on which USA Gymnastics is riding today: one headed toward a sunny, bright future and the other to the graveyard.

Competition is continuing, not only in Artistic Gymnastics, but also in Rhythmic, Trampoline, Acro and the other USAG activities. The 2020 Trials will draw huge interest worldwide, as a major stepping-stone for a pre-eminent U.S. team on the way to Tokyo for the 2020 Games.

At the same time, the very existence of USA Gymnastics is being determined by two different groups in the aftermath of the Larry Nassar sex-abuse scandal:

● Thanks to a clever Chapter 11 reorganization filing, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court is now handling all of the court claims against USA Gymnastics and has taken most of the oxygen out of the circus of competing press releases from survivors (and their law firms). The process is dull and out of public view, but this will change after Tuesday when the claims against the federation are collected and certified.

● The United States Olympic Committee’s procedure for revoking the status of USA Gymnastics as the National Governing Body for the sport is ongoing, but is also moving slowly. USOC chief executive Sarah Hirshland noted when the filing was made last year that the process would be slow, and it is, essentially stopped due to the bankruptcy filing.

At the same time, USA Gymnastics has also been in legal actions against seven of its insurers since April “to maximize insurance proceeds available for settlement or resolution.”

While all of this has been going on, new USA Gymnastics chief executive Li Li Leung said during the Olympic Trials announcement call that “I am confident that going forward, we will remain the NGB” for gymnastics, citing continuing, close contacts between the two organizations.

That’s the most optimistic statement yet by a USA Gymnastics executive; Leung started at USA Gymnastics on 8 March after finishing her duties with the National Basketball Association.

She’s liable to be on the job for a while, as it will take many months – if not years – for the Bankruptcy Court to handle the hundreds of claims made against the federation, while the USAG action against its insurers is handled, and the USOC de-certification action waits for all of this to be settled … most likely well after the Tokyo Games.

The USA Gymnastics Board, completely revamped after the Nassar scandal, can correctly say that it is handling its business in a proper way and working to clear the federation’s liabilities in an orderly, businesslike manner. Even if the USOC votes to de-certify it, that’s not the final word. Under the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, any such determination by the USOC is subject to binding arbitration and that’s where the final decision will be confirmed.