USA Gymnastics upholds Azarian coach’s interim suspension – Press Enterprise

USA Gymnastics upholds Azarian coach’s interim suspension – Press Enterprise

A USA Gymnastics hearing panel has upheld Amanda Hensley’s interim suspension pending the completion of an investigation into allegations that she verbally and emotionally abused, bullied and pressured gymnasts she coached at two Orange County gyms to compete or train while injured.

Hensley remains banned from all contact with gymnasts, USA Gymnastics member clubs and events after a panel rejected her request to have the suspension lifted following a multiple-day hearing, according to two people involved in the hearing and multiple USA Gymnastics texts confirming the decision.

USA Gymnastics’ investigation of Hensley remains ongoing, according to texts from USA Gymnastics paralegal Jennifer Tarnowski to families in the case.

Hensley was hired by Azarian Gymnastics in Aliso Viejo after she stepped down from a high-level coaching position at World Elite Gymnastics, a Rancho Santa Margarita gym, in 2017 following complaints from at least 10 parents that she mistreated young gymnasts, according to documents obtained by the Orange County Register and interviews.

Hensley is one of three Azarian U.S. Gymnastics Training Center coaches placed on interim suspension and banned from all contact with gymnasts by USA Gymnastics in September.

Azarian girls’ head coach Vanessa Gonzalez and Perry Davies, the gym’s former girls’ head coach, were also suspended by USA Gymnastics pending an investigation.

Previously undisclosed documents were part of a three-month Register investigation that included confidential formal complaints to USA Gymnastics, dozens of interviews with gymnasts and their parents, Azarian and USA Gymnastics emails, letters and memos, and medical records and therapist’s reports.

What emerged was a pattern revealing some Azarian coaches allegedly routinely physically, emotionally and verbally abused, bullied and pressured young female gymnasts to continue training and/or competing while injured.

At least 30 witnesses have told USA Gymnastics they will testify to this, according to a former coach and former parent at the Aliso Viejo gym.

USA Gymnastics general counsel Mark Busby confirmed the number of witnesses in conversations this week with Rena Shikuma, an ex-Azarian coach, and Reshma Block, a former Azarian parent, the women said.

At least three parents testified before the USA Gymnastics panel over the course of at least three days that Hensley verbally and emotionally abused and belittled gymnasts at Azarian and World Elite Gymnastics, according to four people involved in the hearing and USA Gymnastic documents.

The hearing, which also included individuals testifying on Hensley’s behalf, lasted longer than initially scheduled, leading USA Gymnastics to postpone Gonzalez’s hearing for a third time, according to four people involved in the investigation and multiple USA Gymnastics documents.

“Coach Hensley’s suspension will last until the investigation is concluded, the next hearing or there is an agreement in place,” Tarnowski wrote in a text to parents. “Coach Vanessa Gonzalez’s hearing is not currently scheduled.”

Hensley has declined multiple requests to respond to questions about the allegations against her.

“As we’ve told you before, I am not allowed to respond to these false allegations at this time due to the confidentiality agreement I signed with USAG,” Hensley said in an email earlier this month after receiving a request for comment from the Register that detailed the allegations against her at both Azarian and World Elite. “When I can, I will address all these slanderous statements.”

Azarian officials have refused to discuss whether they were aware of the allegations against Hensley at World Elite when they hired her. Taylor Smith, the World Elite coach who informed parents of Hensley’s resignation, trained under Davies as a gymnast at Azarian, according to Shikuma

“To our knowledge, World Elite Management was never contacted by Azarian Gymnastics as a reference,” World Elite said in a statement.

Hensley is also alleged to have prevented other gymnasts from coming to the aid of a 10-year-old Azarian female gymnast writhing in pain on a mat during training last year, unable to rise to her feet after sustaining what would later be diagnosed as a torn hamstring, according to interviews with the girl’s mother and three other parents familiar with the incident and a confidential formal complaint to USA Gymnastics.

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