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Ex-lawmaker Mary Bono hired as USA Gymnastics interim CEO

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — USA Gymnastics has hired former Congresswoman Mary Bono as interim president and chief executive officer.

The organization announced the move Friday. Bono will hold the position while USA Gymnastics searches for a permanent successor to Kerry Perry, who resigned under pressure from the United States Olympic Committee in September after spending nine months on the job.

Bono spent 15 years as a U.S. Representative from Southern California from 1998-2013. She won her first term in a special election running as a Republican to fill the vacancy left by the death of her husband, former pop star and lawmaker Sonny Bono. Mary Bono most recently worked at a consulting firm in Washington, D.C.

Bono, 57, has a background in gymnastics. She trained for several clubs for a decade.

“Mary is passionate about the sport, and having her as our interim president and CEO will move the organization forward,” USA Gymnastics board chairman Karen Golz said in a statement.

USA Gymnastics is still struggling to emerge from the fallout of the sexual abuse scandal surrounding former team doctor Larry Nassar. More than 200 women have come forward over the last two years claiming they were sexually abused by Nassar under the guise of treatment, including current or former members of the organization’s elite program.

The group of survivors includes reigning Olympic champion Simone Biles, who was named to the 2018 world championship team on Friday shortly before Bono’s hiring was announced.

Nassar is now serving decades in prison for child pornography and sexual assault. USA Gymnastics is in mediation in an attempt to settle dozens of civil lawsuits filed against it in the wake of the revelations against Nassar.

Perry took over as USA Gymnastics president on Dec. 1, 2017, but was pushed out in September by the USOC following a series of missteps, including the botched hiring and firing of its elite development coordinator.

The coach, Mary Lee Tracy, was an early supporter of Nassar when allegations against him began to surface two years ago. After the announcement of her promotion, Tracy made an attempt to reach out to six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman — herself a Nassar victim — after Raisman called Tracy’s hiring “a slap in the face for survivors” and proof that the organization had not changed.

USA Gymnastics responded by asking Tracy to step down. While the request was made in the interest of protecting USA Gymnastics legally — Raisman has filed a lawsuit against the federation — it also became another public relations mishap.

Newly hired USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland had seen enough, saying in a statement last month that USA Gymnastics “is struggling to manage its obligations effectively and it is time to consider making adjustments in the leadership.”

USA Gymnastics formed a search committee in September to find a full-time replacement for Perry. Spencer Stuart, an executive recruiting firm, has been retained to handle the search.

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