An arbitrator has reduced the suspension of former US Olympic and national team coach Maggie Haney from eight to five years for physical, verbal and emotional abuse.
A US Gymnastics hearing panel in May, after several weeks of testimony over the course of two months, found that Haney, coach of Olympic Champion Laurie Hernandez and World Champion Riley McCusker, “ engaged in seriously aggressive behavior towards a minor, including teasing and mocking was to control and diminish another person. ”
In dismissing one of the longest suspensions for conduct unrelated to sexual abuse or harassment, the hearing panel also found that Haney, 42, failed to provide a safe, positive and healthy environment with a culture of trust and empowerment.
But by reducing the suspension, the arbitrator found that some of the testimony of four gymnasts against Haney should not have been allowed.
The arbitrator’s decision does not include Hernandez’s testimony against Haney or a written statement filed by McCusker who was also critical of her former coach. Hernandez and McCusker and the other gymnasts who complained to USA Gymnastics were coached by Haney at MG Elite in New Jersey, not far from New York City.
“It really upsets me to see what is happening in gymnastics and that so many girls around the world have reported allegations of abuse, but this never happened in my program,” Haney said in a statement. “I have been unfairly targeted by USAG and am now considering all of my legal options.”
USA Gymnastics may attempt to resubmit the gymnasts’ testimony or assert the arbitral award.
“We believe it is critical to ensure that the experiences of all athletes involved in the Maggie Haney case are fully considered as part of the eventual resolution of the case,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement. “We are reviewing the arbitrator’s decision and determining the appropriate next procedural steps to make sure they are.”
Interviews and previously undisclosed confidential documents obtained by the Southern California News Group in a study published in May outlined how Haney pulled gymnasts by their hair, cursed, and yelled at them, body shamed, made fun of, and called them “retarded” when they couldn’t perform a routine or try a new skill they were nervous about. Haney threatened to commit suicide if top gymnasts – including McCusker – left MG Elite, according to interviews, documents, and testimonials provided to USA Gymnastics, as well as texts and emails.
Haney has also been named in a series of civil lawsuits filed in New Jersey by the families of former MG Elite gymnasts who allege they were physically, verbally, and emotionally abused, body shamed and pressured to compete and train while injured were by the coach.
Victoria Levine, Haney’s assistant coach at MG Elite, was temporarily suspended by USA Gymnastics in March and was banned from unguarded contact with underage athletes while the organization investigates allegations of verbal and emotional abuse against her. Levine’s lawyer said she denies any wrongdoing.