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Ziert Alert: Moving Forward
(3 votes, average 5.00 out of 5)

Most of you know that I have been very disappointed with how USA Gymnastics has dealt with the scandal associated mostly with Larry Nassar and the complete disdain I have, and that everyone else should have, on how the USAG administration allowed and, in many cases, strongly supported the culture that allowed this to happen.

Valeri Liukin is the new leader of the U.S. women's team.

The culture must change. We must get rid of the people who have refused to speak up and who have actually wrongfully benefited from this culture. With that said, I want to congratulate Valeri Liukin for his integrity and openness through the difficult times. I have known and admired Liukin for many years, both as a competitive gymnast and as a professional one. He performed in at least 50 of my arena shows and always did maximum performances. I was thrilled to be invited to the Grand Opening of WOGA in Plano, Texas, and I have enjoyed watching the program grow. But my respect for him has risen sharply with how he dealt with the Vanessa Atler story. In a podcast, Atler spoke of the time she spent at WOGA in the late 1990s as emotionally challenging for her with being weighed three times a day, not being able to drink water during practice and other things that we have grown to know as commonplace in the former Eastern-bloc gymnastics culture. Liukin responded in People magazine with the following statement:

"I'm sorry Vanessa's experience wasn't positive during her time at WOGA. When asked to help during a difficult time for her, my intention as a coach was to help Vanessa achieve her dreams, not make her training situation more difficult. My recollection of working with Vanessa is different and includes many positive experiences. Coaching techniques and perspectives have evolved since then and I have grown as a coach through experience and expanding my knowledge. Today, I firmly believe an athlete's focus should be on training smart, with increased education In the areas of balanced nutrition, fitness, healthy lifestyle and communication. This is the basis for our approach in women's gymnastics."

If he had said "now" at the end of his last sentence, I would be overjoyed. I also wish he had added coaches and administrators to that focus statement. Nevertheless, Liukin did stand up and accept his accountability, admitting that he had made mistakes and did not deny her statements. And now we must wait to see if he can, in fact, make the changes that will fulfill his statement of how he wishes to establish the basis of approach because it's quite a change from the past.

Hence, Liukin is definitely a keeper. Now, who else is going to step up and admit the culture was completely toxic and must be changed? I hope we can hear from the other officers and administrative heads as well as board members who have participated in this unhealthy environment and have allowed injustices for personal gain. This cannot be only about sexual improprieties. The whole structure is faulty and must be changed. And, of course, USAG Chairman Paul Parilla must step down and the sooner the better. His conduct and absolute refusal to support transparency along with his denial of any wrongdoing are reprehensible.

This is for sure the best time ever to finally surround our wonderful athletes with an organization that will support and protect them as they work their way through our incredible sport! Remember, the federation works for us, so let's be sure to define our expectations of them and insist that they adhere to them. We cannot let the same people remain in charge of our sport. Anyone who defends the past must be removed. Who at USAG will be next to join the revolution?

— Paul Ziert, Publisher

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