USA Gymnastics Inc. was hit with a suit in the District of New Jersey by a coach who says she was unfairly suspended from participating in amateur gymnastic competition for more than five years for allegedly verbally abusing athletes—including an Olympic gold medal winner—without sufficient procedural protections.
Maggie Haney alleges in her suit under the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act that there is no precedent or basis for her punishment, which she says is “four times harsher than that imposed on coaches who have been proven to have physically and sexually abused young girls.”
“Never before (nor since) Ms. Haney’s case has USAG suspended a coach based solely on claims of alleged emotional harm, where there was not a single allegation of physical or sexual abuse,” the complaint alleges.
“While USA Gymnastics has not been served with Ms. Haney’s recent lawsuit, the organization is confident in the need for suspension and will vigorously oppose Ms. Haney’s claims in the lawsuit,” a spokesman told Bloomberg Law Tuesday.
The principal complainant in the case against Haney, and the only one to testify, was Laurie Hernandez, who earned Olympic silver and gold at the 2016 Olympics after having studied and trained with Haney for more than 10 years, the complaint alleges.
Haney says USAG “withheld and suppressed substantial exculpatory evidence from the hearing panel” that heard the evidence against her and then recommended her punishment, and that the panel “was neither disinterested nor impartial.”
Among the suppressed evidence were emails from parents and athletes refuting the allegations, Haney says.
The complaint seeks a declaratory judgment under the sports act that USAG failed to provide adequate notice of the charges against her, to identify witnesses in advance of the hearing, and to provide counsel with copies of relevant documents.
It also allegedly didn’t provide copies of exhibits before presenting them to the hearing panel and to comply “with even the most lax evidentiary rules.”
Haney filed the suit Monday in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
Cause of Action: Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act.
Relief: Declaratory relief, damages, attorneys’ fees and costs.
Attorneys: Steamer Hart LLP represents Haney.
The case is Haney v. USA Gymnastics Inc., D.N.J., No. 21-cv-07213, 3/29/21.