U.S.A. Gymnastics, under intense scrutiny from the public and Congress after a sexual abuse scandal involving hundreds of young athletes, on Friday asked for an official’s resignation only three days after naming her to an elite position.
The gymnastics federation said in a statement that the official, a longtime coach named Mary Lee Tracy, had acted “inappropriately” by contacting a gymnast, later identified as Aly Raisman, who is suing the organization. The federation faces litigation from many of the accusers in the case against Lawrence G. Nassar, the former national team doctor who is serving a prison sentence of 40 to 175 years after he was convicted on multiple charges of criminal sexual conduct.
Ms. Raisman, a three-time Olympic champion, had spoken out on Twitter against the federation’s hiring of Ms. Tracy, who defended Dr. Nassar after the abuse accusations surfaced.
“USA Gymnastics has appointed someone who, in my view, supported Nassar, victim-shamed survivors and has shown no willingness to learn from the past,” Ms. Raisman
USA Gymnastics has appointed someone who, in my view, supported Nassar, victim-shamed survivors, & has shown no willingness to learn from the past. This is a slap in the face for survivors, & further confirmation that nothing at @USAG has changed. What a profound disappointment! https://t.co/lklLiqsOCJ— Alexandra Raisman (@Aly_Raisman) August 29, 2018
Ms. Tracy said Friday on Facebook that she had reached out to Ms. Raisman, “to apologize and hope we could work together to make our sport better and learn from all of the mistakes of the past.”
Ms. Tracy, who was the head coach of the 1996 Olympic women’s team, said that she had not been told to avoid contacting Ms. Raisman or others connected to the Nassar case, and that she would fight to keep her new job, as coordinator of U.S.A. Gymnastics’ elite development program for women.
“USA Gymnastics decided it would be best to move forward without Ms. Tracy in this role,” the federation said in a statement Friday, after noting that she had “inappropriately contacted a survivor, who is also a represented plaintiff, in response to the survivor’s public criticism of her.”
The United States Olympic Committee, which oversees the gymnastics federation, released a statement from its chief executive, Sarah Hirshland, on Friday night.
“We’ve been following their activity, and as we close the day I’m afraid I can offer nothing but disappointment,” the statement said. “Under the circumstances, we feel that the organization is struggling to manage its obligations effectively and it is time to consider making adjustments in the leadership.”
John Manly, the lawyer for Ms. Raisman and many other athletes suing over Dr. Nassar’s abuse, said Ms. Raisman had “no knowledge that Mary Lee Tracy ever tried to contact her. She has no texts or phone calls, but maybe she reached out through social media and Aly didn’t see it. I can tell you no one has contacted my office to speak to her.”
In a 2016 television interview after Dr. Nassar had already been indicted on federal child pornography charges and after dozens of gymnasts had accused him of molestation, Ms. Tracy defended him as a doctor who had “helped so many kids in their careers” and “protected them.”
Ms. Tracy did not respond to multiple requests for comment, though she commented on Facebook.
“I was pressured to make a decision and I am seeking counsel!” wrote Ms. Tracy, who has coached more than two dozen national team members at her Cincinnati gym.
In the wake of the Nassar scandal, U.S.A. Gymnastics was forced to replace its board of directors, its president and other top officials. The new president, Kerry Perry, has testified in front of Congress about the organization’s resolve to empower athletes and to become a federation athletes can trust.