US gymnastics head to apologize in Congress for sex abuse disgrace

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Washington (AFP)

The head of the US gymnastics governing body will appear before Congress Wednesday to apologize to hundreds of female athletes who were abused by a doctor convicted in the largest scandal in the sport's history.

"I want to apologize to all who were harmed by the horrific acts of Larry Nassar," USA Gymnastics chief Kerry Perry will say in her opening statement, referring to the organization's doctor who sexually assaulted athletes, including several Olympians, over a span of decades.

"Like all of you, I was appalled and sickened by the despicable crimes," she will say, according to a copy of her opening remarks published Tuesday by US media.

Perry, who took the organization's top post last December, said she was in the courtroom and listened as the "incredibly courageous women" detailed the damage that the 54-year-old Nassar did to their lives.

"I commit to you that I will keep their words and experiences at the core of every decision I make, every day, as the leader of this organization," she added.

"Their stories have broken my heart, but also strengthened my resolve."

She also made it known that the organization is participating in mediation to resolve athletes claims "fairly and expeditiously."

Perry will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee's panel on oversight and investigations. She will be joined at the hearing by the US Olympic Committee's supremo, and the heads of the US swimming, taekwondo and volleyball.

Perry will tell Congress that USA Gymnastics is "on a new path, with new leadership, and a commitment to ensure this never happens again."

The Nassar scandal rocked American gymnastics to its core.

The 54-year-old serial abuser was sentenced in January to spend his life behind bars after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting women and girls over a two-decade period under the guise of medical treatment.

Earlier this month, Michigan State University, where Nassar practiced medicine, announced it agreed to a $500 million settlement with hundreds of former victims.

Olympic gold medalists Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas and McKayla Maroney have all identified themselves as victims of Nassar's abuse.