USA Gymnastics suspends coach Maggie Haney eight years for repeated emotional abuse of young gymnasts

Jack Baer
Writer
Maggie Haney reportedly instructed gymnasts to remove casts so they could keep training. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

Former U.S. Olympic and national team coach Maggie Haney received an eight-year suspension form USA Gymnastics on Wednesday for verbal emotional abuse against her gymnasts, according to The Orange County Register’s Scott Reid.

The decision was reportedly preceded by two months of hearings in which Laurie Hernandez, a member of the gold medal-winning 2016 U.S. team, testified against her longtime coach. World champion artistic gymnast Riley McCusker also reportedly wrote a letter critical of Haney.

Haney, once one of the country’s most prominent gymnastics coaches, was found by a USA Gymnastics hearing panel to have failed to “to provide a safe, positive and healthy environment with a culture of trust and empowerment.”

She was also found to have “engaged in severe aggressive behavior toward a minor that included teasing and ridiculing that was intended to control and diminish another person.”

Under the penalty, Haney will reportedly be unable to coach with USA Gymnastics for eight years, will be banned from all USA Gymnastics events and will not be allowed to contact any of her accusers. If reinstated after eight years, she will be placed on two years probation.

It’s not surprising USA Gymnastics would come down hard on a coach over abuse allegations given the aftermath of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal that shook the organization to its core. Haney is reportedly expected to appeal the decision.

The allegations against former USA Gymnastics coach Maggie Haney

The decision comes almost four years after Hernandez filed her first abuse complaints against Haney to a USA Gymnastics official in 2016.

During the hearing, at least a dozen gymnasts said they were verbally or emotionally abused by Haney at her MG Elite Gymnastics gym in New Jersey. She reportedly told injured gymnasts to remove boot casts and other medical devices to continue training, and gymnasts as young as 10 were screamed at for making a mistake in practice.

Parents reportedly said they witnessed Haney fat-shame girls and kick others out of practice at time for disappointing her. The treatment led to claims of anxiety attacks, to the point that one gymnast was so nervous about an uneven bars routine that she began reportedly shaking uncontrollably. Haney reportedly responded with a joke about Tourette’s Syndrome.

Haney reportedly received support from several NCAA gymnasts and former U.S. national team coaches who called her coaching style abrasive, but not abusive. Some did reportedly concede in private that her methods were no longer acceptable though.

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