Valeri Liukin has been a presence on the sidelines of USA Gymnastics for decades, both before and after his daughter Nastia Liukin captured the All-Around gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In September 2016, he was appointed coordinator for the U.S. women’s national team.
But on Friday, amid another round of testimony by sexual abuse victims of team doctor Larry Nassar, he announced his resignation, a week after USA Gymnastics’ entire Board of Directors resigned their posts.
“[I have] loved gymnastics my entire life,” he said in a statement provided to USA Today. But it’s “time to move on in a different direction, at least for now….I wish the coaches and athletes continued success, and I stand ready to encourage and support all of them from a different vantage point,” said Liukin, himself a four-time Olympic medalist.
The shakeup is part of the still-unraveling saga involving decades of abuse and corruption at the highest levels of the sport, far beyond what we’ve learned so far about Larry Nassar. During last month’s sentencing hearing, dozens of Nassar’s victims painted a picture of neglect and abuse not just from the former doctor, but from the organizations and officials that employed him.
Mattie Larson was one of more than 150 sexual assault victims to testify at Nassar’s sentencing, and took an opportunity to call out the emotional and psychological abuse she suffered alongside the physical abuse she sustained at the hands of her doctor.
“It truly bothers me that one of the adults that treated me this way, making me feel completely invisible, is the new national team coordinator, Valeri Liukin,” said Larson at the time. “It troubles me that he is now in that position, and I hope for the sake of current and future national team members, that he has changed.”
Following the week-long hearing, Liukin’s daughter Nastia penned a letter offering her support to Nassar’s victims, and came to the defense of her father.
“Looking towards the future, my father is now the Women’s National Team Coach. He has been there as an athlete, a coach, and most importantly a father,” she wrote. “He, as much as anyone else, wants to change the culture and environment of this program.”
After USA Gymnastics cut ties with the Karolyi Ranch — the Texas-based training compound where many of Nassar’s assaults took place — Liukin offered one of his facilities as a temporary training center until the national team found a permanent home.
“He continues to stay committed to providing a safe environment for these young women working so hard at a sport we all love so much,” wrote Nastia.