USA Gymnastics hires NBA exec Li Li Leung as new CEO
By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
Wednesday, February 20
Li Li Leung spent two years watching USA Gymnastics struggle through the aftermath of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. A former college gymnast at the University of Michigan who still considered herself “embedded” in the sport while serving as a vice president with the NBA, Leung kept waiting for things to get better.
Only they didn’t. Leadership changed. More and more survivors stepped forward to detail their experiences at the hands of Nassar, a former national team doctor. The United States Olympic Committee began the process of stripping USA Gymnastics of its status as the national governing body. One of the U.S. Olympic movement’s marquee programs was rudderless and fighting for its survival.
“I was frankly very, very disappointed in terms of where the sport and the organization had gotten to,” Leung said.
So disappointed that she felt compelled to come home.
USA Gymnastics hired Leung as its new president and chief executive officer on Tuesday, a job she accepted in an effort to help the organization and the sport find a way forward.
“I have bled, sweated and cried alongside my teammates as well as other team members and other gymnasts,” Leung said Tuesday. “And it really broke my heart to see where the sport was. We can do better for the sport. … Our gymnasts deserve better.”
The 45-year-old Leung, who will begin her new position on March 8, competed as a member of a U.S. junior national training team and represented the U.S. in the 1988 Junior Pan American Games. She helped Michigan win four Big Ten titles during her college career and served as a volunteer assistant gymnastics coach while earning two master’s degrees at the University of Massachusetts. Her professional stops include stints at USA Basketball and the NBA.
Now she returns to the sport she started in at age 7, hoping to prevent USA Gymnastics from being decertified by the USOC.
USA Gymnastics filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December in an effort to reach settlements in the dozens of sex-abuse lawsuits it faces in courts across the country from athletes who blame the group for failing to supervise Nassar, a team doctor accused of molesting them.
The 55-year-old Nassar worked at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University for decades. He is serving an effective life sentence for child porn possession and molesting young women and girls under the guise of medical treatment.
Leung said she has already spoken to USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland and that “both sides are committed to working closely to resolve the decertification request.”
“We remain hopeful, that USA Gym will be the (national governing body) going forward,” Leung said.
Hirshland called Leung “an accomplished professional” in a statement and expressed optimism about the direction of the organization under Leung’s leadership.
“I’m very hopeful that Li Li’s combination of experience and desire to lead will be a positive force for change in the lives of gymnasts all over the country,” Hirshland said.
Leung is the fourth person to hold the position of president and CEO in the last two years. Steve Penny resigned under pressure in March 2017. His replacement, Kerry Perry, lasted less than a year when she stepped down under heavy scrutiny from the USOC last September.
The organization then turned to former U.S. Rep. Mary Bono on an interim basis last October, but she resigned after just four days, saying she felt her affiliation would be a “liability” after a social media post by Bono criticizing Nike and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick drew widespread scrutiny within the gymnastics community.
Leung acknowledged she is well aware of the churn at the top but added, “I wouldn’t have taken this job if I didn’t think I could have been successful in it.”
USA Gymnastics surveyed more than 200 members of the gymnastics community during the process, including current or former athletes, coaches, club owners and judges. Board chair Kathryn Carson said Leung “has the passion, the personal commitment and the resilience to lead USA Gymnastics at this juncture.”
Leung’s to-do list includes what she called “fair and equitable resolution” with Nassar survivors so “they can work with us to make the fundamental changes that are necessary.” USA Gymnastics has been criticized over the last two years for its tone-deaf approach.
Olympic champion Simone Biles, herself a Nassar victim, openly challenged Perry’s inability to articulate a path toward reconciliation before the national championships last August. Less than a month later, Perry was out of a job.
John Manly, a California-based attorney representing dozens of athletes suing USA Gymnastics, dismissed Leung’s hire as “business as usual.” Manly called Leung “an insider” and said survivors were “ignored” after asking to be part of the process.
“I think the good thing about it is it gives survivors and their families absolute clarity about what needs to happen to USA Gymnastics is that it needs to go away and be replaced because they’re incapable of reforming themselves,” Manly said.
Leung said her focus will be on helping foster a culture focused on athlete health and safety. When an independent report released in December detailed a pattern of negligence that allowed Nassar’s behavior to run unchecked for so long, Leung said she empathized with its details of “having gymnasts suffer silently, sacrifice their childhood, competing on broken bones.”
She plans to keep that perspective in mind as USA Gymnastics attempts to forge ahead.
“Judge us on our response,” she said. “Judge us on our actions going forward. We will learn from the past and look to the future to heal and rebuild.”
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Shiffrin wins city event, locks up World Cup slalom title
Tuesday, February 19
STOCKHOLM (AP) — Mikaela Shiffrin wrapped up the season-long slalom World Cup title Tuesday, three days after winning her record fourth straight world title in the discipline. And she matched yet another record in the process.
Shiffrin won a parallel city event, defeating Christina Geiger of Germany in both runs to win the final by 0.27 seconds.
The victory gave the American two-time overall champion an insurmountable 203-point lead in the season standings with two races remaining. Her closest challenger, Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, was beaten by Geiger in the quarterfinals.
“Each run I was pretty good but not always the fastest,” Shiffrin said. “But I was consistent and for tonight, that was enough. It was really fun, actually.”
It was Shiffrin’s 57th career win and 14th of the season, matching the record for most World Cup victories in a single campaign, set by Swiss great Vreni Schneider in the 1990s.
Ramon Zenhaeusern of Switzerland won the men’s event, beating Olympic champion Andre Myhrer of Sweden in the final.
Marcel Hirscher lost in the quarterfinals but the Austrian seven-time overall champion gained enough World Cup points to lock up the slalom season title.
Both Shiffrin and Hirscher have won the crystal globe for best slalom skier six times in the past seven seasons. They both missed the title in 2016, when Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter and Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen finished top of the rankings.
Beaten by Vlhova in a similar event in Oslo on New Year’s Day, this time Shiffrin took the win, but she had to overcome a tough fight with Anna Swenn Larsson in the semifinal.
Cheered by her Swedish home crowd, Larsson won the first run by 0.09 seconds, but Shiffrin edged her by 0.10 in the second run to progress with the smallest margin possible.
In the final, Shiffrin was faster than Geiger twice as the German settled for her career best result and first World Cup podium in eight years.
Shiffrin triumphed despite still suffering from the cold she also had to deal with at the worlds in Are last week.
“I skied as well as I could. Even if I was healthy, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do better. Now I have some time to really recover,” she said.
Shiffrin will sit out races in Crans Montana this weekend and Sochi next week, before returning to the circuit on March 8-9 for technical events in Spindleruv Mlyn in Czech Republic, the resort where she had her World Cup debut in 2011 at age 15.
In the men’s event, Zenhaeusern beat Hirscher in the quarterfinal on his way to his second career victory, after also winning here last year.
Hirscher still ended up winning the season title as his two main rivals, Clement Noel and Kristoffersen, had gone out in the opening round.
“I am very happy. Winning the title today was one of the reasons for my start here,” said Hirscher, who successfully defended his world title in the discipline just two days earlier.
Noel, who won the World Cup slaloms in Wengen and Kitzbuehel last month, looked like defeating Manfred Moelgg of Italy but the Frenchman was disqualified for straddling the final gate.
And Kristoffersen, beaten by Norwegian teammate Sebastian Foss-Solevaag, has failed to go beyond the opening round of all six city events he has competed in.
The next men’s World Cup races are in Bansko, Bulgaria, from Friday through Sunday.
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Gwyneth Paltrow: Skier sued me to exploit my fame, wealth
By BRADY McCOMBS
Thursday, February 21
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Gwyneth Paltrow said Wednesday in a court filing that a man who accused her in a lawsuit of crashing into him at a Utah ski resort was actually the culprit in the collision and is trying to exploit her celebrity and wealth.
Paltrow was skiing with her children and friends in 2016 during a family vacation on a beginner run at Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, when Terry Sanderson smashed into her from behind and delivered a full “body blow,’ the actress’ attorney alleged in a counter claim. Paltrow said she was shaken by the collision and quit skiing for the day.
She said Sanderson apologized and said he was fine, her response to Sanderson’s lawsuit said. Paltrow previously denied blame for the crash in a statement but had not offered a full version of the events.
“She did not knock him down,” Paltrow’s court filing said. “He knocked her down. He was not knocked out.”
Paltrow, known for her roles in “Shakespeare in Love” and the “Iron Man” movies and her lifestyle company named goop, said her injuries were minor and that she is seeking “symbolic damages” of $1 plus costs for her lawyers’ fees. She said Sanderson made a “meritless claim.’
Her legal response to Sanderson also called his lawsuit an “attempt to exploit her celebrity and wealth.”
Paltrow’s account differs greatly from the sequence of the events on Feb. 26, 2016, alleged by Sanderson in his lawsuit filed last month. He said Paltrow was skiing out of control and knocked him out, leaving him with a concussion and four broken ribs. He referred to it as a “hit and run” and is seeking $3.1 million in damages.
Sanderson, a retired Salt Lake City optometrist, told reporters on the day he sued that he waited to file the lawsuit for nearly three years because he had problems with attorneys and could not function properly because of the concussion.
Sanderson’s attorney, Robert Sykes, said his client’s version of events is the truth and corroborated by a friend he was skiing with who saw Paltrow hit Sanderson from behind. Sykes played a video of that man’s account at the Jan. 29 news conference.
“It is unfortunate that Ms. Paltrow would fail to tell the truth about what happened,” Sykes said.
Sanderson’s lawsuit and Paltrow’s response both cite an incident report filed by a Deer Valley ski instructor.
The instructor, who was skiing with Paltrow’s 9-year-old son, said Sanderson was uphill and hit Paltrow from behind. He said Paltrow had been making short turns as she skied behind her children, who were getting lessons downhill from her on the same trail, according to the report provided to The Associated Press by Paltrow’s attorney through the actress’ spokeswoman, Heather Wilson. The report will be an exhibit in the court case, Wilson said.
But the instructor said in his report said he did not actually see the collision and only heard Paltrow scream and hit the ground. He did not explain how he knew that Sanderson caused the collision.
Sanderson in his lawsuit accused the instructor of filing a false report. Sanderson said he also heard Paltrow scream, right before he said she crashed into him, his lawsuit said.
Deer Valley Resort spokeswoman Emily Summers said Wednesday that the resort does not comment on pending legal matters. Sanderson’s lawsuit against Paltrow also names the resort as a defendant.
The resort’s attorneys asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit in a court filing Tuesday in which they denied that the instructor falsified the report and defended how ski patrol personnel responded to the crash.
The resort said its ski patrol hauled Sanderson in a toboggan to a medical tent after the collision. The resort denied it inflicted the emotional distress Sanderson said he suffered after the collision.
“A recreational skiing accident that plaintiff waited nearly three years to sue on simply does not constitute an event that renders a ‘reasonable person unable to cope with his daily life,” Deer Valley said in its filing.
Coaching site builds list of those banned from US Olympics
By EDDIE PELLS
AP National Writer
Wednesday, February 20
An advocacy group has published a first-of-its-kind comprehensive list of coaches banned from Olympic sports, creating a database of nearly 1,000 people no longer allowed to work in the U.S. Olympic system because of sex-abuse allegations, doping positives and other criminal activities involving minors.
The staff at greatcoach.com compiled the list using information from the U.S. Center for SafeSport, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the more than 50 national governing bodies that oversee individual sports, most of which feed into the U.S. Olympic team.
The website, designed by former pro moguls skier Bill Kerig, was originally started to help families find certified coaches who are best qualified to work with their kids.
The SafeSport center and U.S. Olympic Committee have struggled to publish this sort of comprehensive list, even as the fallout from the Larry Nassar sex-abuse scandal has left both organizations vulnerable to lawsuits over allegations they didn’t do enough to protect athletes under their purview.
For years, the USOC let the NGBs operate under their own rules about who landed on the lists and whether those lists were made public, and those rules varied widely between organizations.
In 2017, the SafeSport center opened and began publishing a list of banned coaches, but that list was restricted to those who had been banned since the center’s opening. More recently, the center has begun incorporating backdated lists from the NGBs.
“As you might imagine, there are a lot of legal issues related to putting people’s names out there” on a banned list, said Dan Hill, the spokesman for the SafeSport center.
Kerig said his group was in a different position than the SafeSport center and USOC, which allowed it to curate information already available and format it in a user-friendly way.
“We’re a nimble, private enterprise, and we don’t exist to serve multiple masters,” Kerig said. “We exist because I want to make youth and amateur sports better and safer. I don’t have sponsors. And we have really good technology.”
Because of legal and logistical concerns, the SafeSport website provides a database searchable by name, state or sport. The Great Coach website starts with its list that, as of Tuesday, stood at 986 names, all of which can then be sorted by sport, by state and by specific names. Kerig said his website’s list, which contains some names the SafeSport site does not, is still a work in progress, and is only as good as the various lists used to compile it.
When Kerig launched the website late last year, it was not his plan to incorporate a banned list. He still wants the site to become a place for coaches and parents to interact — so parents can learn more about the adults they’re leaving their children with, and coaches can share their experiences with each other and with parents.
Kerig, who founded and eventually sold the website rallyme.com and also coaches youth hockey in Utah, said he was shocked that almost every parent he talked to at the practice rink said they had not taken the relatively simple step of conducting an online search about their children’s coaches.
“I even said to the parents of the kids I coach, ‘Have you Googled me? I think I’m having an impact on your kid’s life,’” Kerig said. “You should know as much as you can about me, or any coach you’re going to drop your kid off with for 10 to 20 hours a week.”
As Kerig got the website up and running, he realized there was a gap as far as the banned-coaches list was concerned. He said he doesn’t consider himself in competition with the USOC or the SafeSport center.
“We’re just trying to make it easier for parents to access information about the people coaching their kids, both good and bad information,” he said.
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How to keep conservation policies from backfiring in a globally connected world
February 20, 2019
Author: Andrew Frederick Johnson, Visiting Scientist, San Diego State University
Disclosure statement: Andrew Frederick Johnson does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
For many years environmentalists have urged the public to “think globally, act locally” – meaning, consider the health of the planet, then take action in your own community.
But this approach can have unintended consequences. In a recent study, I worked with colleagues from academia, government and the nonprofit world to gather examples of fishery, forestry, agriculture and biofuel policies that appeared successful locally, but on closer inspection actually created environmental problems elsewhere, or in some cases made them worse.
For example, in my field of fisheries ecology and management, one strategy for managing the problem of bycatch – when fishermen accidentally catch non-target species, such as sharks, sea turtles and dolphins – is to reduce local catch limits. But when the United States curtailed Pacific swordfish catch between April 2001 and March 2004 to protect sea turtles, U.S. wholesalers imported more swordfish from other countries’ fleets operating in the Western and Central Pacific.
These fleets subsequently caught more swordfish to meet continued U.S. market demand. In the process, the number of sea turtles unintentionally hooked by fishermen increased by nearly 3,000 compared to before the closure.
My colleagues and I see this pattern, which scholars often call leakage or slippage, as vast and growing. To help address it, we identified ways to avoid taking actions that just displace environmental harms from one place to another rather than reducing them.
Persuading consumers to reuse excess materials, such as reclaimed wood, is one way to reduce demand for virgin materials.
Transferring environmental harm
Once environmental problems are addressed locally, people often assume that they have been solved. But if demand for whatever they are trying to conserve – land, wildlife, energy resources – stays high, people will obtain them from other sources. In the process, they cause environmental damage in locations or economic sectors that are less strictly regulated.
These scenarios often shift impacts from developed nations to emerging economies. For example, a study based on data from 2001 indicated that 31 percent of timber harvest reductions in the United States were shifted to less developed nations, including tropical forest countries in South and Central America, southeast Asia, and west and central Africa as well as boreal forest countries like Russia. Companies sought timber from these countries to satisfy demand in the United States and other parts of the world created by reduced U.S. exports.
Such effects are common in forestry. One study estimates that 42 to 95 percent of logging reductions in specific countries or regions are shifted elsewhere, offsetting environmental gains. Less wealthy countries that get the additional business often benefit economically, but in many cases they have not yet developed policies to help ensure that they use their natural resources sustainably.
Slippage can also occur within countries. Seeking to promote sustainable forest management, Peru adopted long-term logging concessions starting in 2002. By 2005, however, deforestation and forest disturbance increased three- to four-fold in surrounding nonconcession areas.
Similarly, in 2003 Mexico enacted a federal conservation program that compensated landowners for forest protection. Deforestation significantly increased in neighboring, non-enrolled forest tracts.
The U.S. Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to take environmentally sensitive land out of production and plant it with species that will improve its health, may also cause such effects. One study found that between 1982 and 1992, Midwest farmers retired 17.6 million acres under the Conservation Reserve Program, but simultaneously brought at least 3.7 million acres into production – possibly because cropland retirements drove up crop prices. This offset 9 percent of water and 14 percent of wind erosion reduction benefits from retiring the original croplands.
A path forward
In a world where markets are becoming ever more globalized, it is urgent to limit negative environmental impacts of resource use, rather than just displace them from one region or nation to another. There are a number of ways to do this.
To assess whether a policy will cause environmental harm elsewhere, it is important for natural resource managers and policymakers to understand the relationship between demand for a product and its supply. For example, when prices of hardwood species are high, more environmentally conscious consumers or those on a budget are likely to use bamboo or other materials for flooring instead.
However, some varieties have unique features or connote social status. Examples include rosewood, which is highly prized for uses that include musical instruments, and shark fin soup, a dish viewed by many Asians as a symbol of wealth and prestige. Because these materials often are rare, possessing them becomes a sign of social status, which can stimulate wealthy consumers to purchase more. Conserving them may require other actions, such as special legal protection for source species.
Governments and environmental groups can also use marketing campaigns to reduce demand for scarce resources, educate consumers about the consequences of their purchasing decisions and encourage producers to be transparent about the environmental impacts of their products. Examples of such efforts include eco labels, traceability programs and consumer guides, which have been widely implemented for forestry, fisheries and agricultural products.
Studies show that such tools can produce real environmental benefits, such as increases in fish stocks and in support for creating protected areas. Most of these improvements appear to be made by industries that must make significant changes before they can join these programs. For example, fishermen may need to shift away from traditional but destructive fishing practices before their catch can be certified as sustainably caught. These programs often are more successful in developed countries that can finance such steps than in emerging economies.
Avoiding conservation illusions
Natural resource conservation policies are a fundamental tool for using Earth’s resources responsibly and sustainably. In a world where consumers can purchase products made on the opposite side of the planet, these policies must look beyond their own jurisdictions. If not, well-intentioned conservation efforts may only create the illusion of protection.