“Agent” Claims of USA Gymnastics Being Explored By Investigators
As reported by Louise Radnofsky and Rebecca O’Brien of The Wall Street Journal, investigators and Federal Prosecutors are performing a criminal inquiry of U.S Olympic sports. There investigations have lead to the interviews of the parents of popular gymnasts such as Simone Biles and Jordyn Wieber.
Centered around the investigation is Steve Penny, previously the chief executive of USA Gymnastics. According to previous reports Penny acted as the agent of Wieber while simulataneously running the non-profit governing body. In addition, he was a part of several sponsorship deals involving both the athletes and USA Gymnastics. This brings up issues surrounding fairness to athletes that were not being represented and if the deals made were entirely in the interests of the ones being represented. Penny’s lawyers have declined being anyone’s agent in the past and has sense maintained that stance.
Interesting enough a Wall Street Journal report conducted in 2019, revealed an e-mail sent from Penny in May 2015 supporting the claim that Penny had interest in representing Biles. Penny’s lawyers has since claimed the e-mail was a joke. But Penny was in a time where his he was successfully securing large marketing deals for the organization and growing his compensation along the way. If the deals had anything to do with him representing athletes, that would open up the suggestion of a conflict. Again Penny’s lawyers has refuted the claims and states that Penny never received compensation related to any of the sponsorship relationships.
Rita Wieber, mother of 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber stated that Penny “was 100% her (Jordyn) agent” from 2011 until 2012. Also stating that she personally reviewed the signed contracts, and that all were with existing USA Gymnastics sponsors. Penny resigned in March of 2017 as chief executive.
The investigation is still ongoing, which comes not long after the investigation and sentencing of USA team physician Larry Nassar for assault and child-pornography charges.