U.S.A. Gymnastics, which installed new leadership over the last year after a sexual abuse scandal involving hundreds of young athletes, is facing another possible overhaul after a hiring decision went awry this week.
The gymnastics federation on Friday asked for an official’s resignation only three days after naming her to an elite position. The choice of the official, a longtime coach named Mary Lee Tracy, became controversial because she had initially defended Lawrence G. Nassar, the former national team doctor who is serving a prison sentence of 40 to 175 years for multiple charges of criminal sexual conduct.
Hours after the federation’s call for Ms. Tracy’s resignation, the chief executive of the United States Olympic Committee, Sarah Hirshland, said that it was “time to consider making adjustments in the leadership” of U.S.A. Gymnastics.
“We’ve been following their activity, and as we close the day I’m afraid I can offer nothing but disappointment,” Ms. Hirshland, who became the head of the U.S.O.C. in July, said in a statement. “Under the circumstances, we feel that the organization is struggling to manage its obligations effectively and it is time to consider making adjustments in the leadership.”
In a statement about its request for Ms. Tracy’s resignation, the gymnastics federation said that she had acted “inappropriately” by contacting a gymnast, later identified as Aly Raisman, who is suing the organization over the Nassar case.
Ms. Raisman, a three-time Olympic champion, had spoken out on Twitter against the federation’s hiring of Ms. Tracy, who had defended Dr. Nassar after the abuse accusations surfaced.
“USA Gymnastics has appointed someone who, in my view, supported Nassar, victim-shamed survivors and has shown no willingness to learn from the past,” Ms. Raisman wrote on Twitter.
Ms. Tracy said Friday on Facebook that she had reached out to Ms. Raisman, “to apologize and hope we could work together to make our sport better and learn from all of the mistakes of the past.”
Ms. Tracy, who was the head coach of the 1996 Olympic women’s team, said that she had not been told to avoid contacting Ms. Raisman or others connected to the Nassar case, and that she would fight to keep her new job, as coordinator of U.S.A. Gymnastics’ elite development program for women.
John Manly, the lawyer for Ms. Raisman and many other athletes suing over Dr. Nassar’s abuse, said Ms. Raisman had “no knowledge that Mary Lee Tracy ever tried to contact her. She has no texts or phone calls, but maybe she reached out through social media and Aly didn’t see it. I can tell you no one has contacted my office to speak to her.”
In a 2016 television interview after Dr. Nassar had already been indicted on federal child pornography charges and after dozens of gymnasts had accused him of molestation, Ms. Tracy defended him as a doctor who had “helped so many kids in their careers” and “protected them.”
She has since said that she was speaking to her “truth and experience only” when she made those remarks. “I was fooled just like the survivors were along with many other coaches,” Ms. Tracy wrote on Facebook this week, adding, “He was a massive manipulator to ALL OF US!”
After the request for her resignation, she wrote on Facebook, “I was pressured to make a decision and I am seeking counsel!”
Ms. Tracy, who has coached more than two dozen national team members at her Cincinnati gym, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
In the wake of the Nassar scandal, U.S.A. Gymnastics was forced to replace its board of directors, its president and other top officials. The new president, Kerry Perry, has testified in front of Congress about the organization’s resolve to empower athletes and to become a federation athletes can trust.
Sarah Mervosh and Matthew Futterman contributed reporting.