Gymnastics coach Maggie Haney was accused of verbally and emotionally abusing athletes

By Ally Mauch
April 30, 2020 03:02 PM
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Laurie Hernandez with coach Maggie Haney
Ronald Martinez/Getty

Maggie Haney, the gymnastics coach who trained Laurie Hernandez through the 2016 Olympics, has been suspended by USA Gymnastics for a period of eight years for verbal and emotional abuse of athletes.

USA Gymnastics confirmed the suspension, which will be followed by a two-year probationary period, in a statement provided to PEOPLE. After her suspension, Haney, 42, may reapply for membership following the completion of safety courses.

“The independent hearing panel — comprised of three members of the gymnastics community, including an attorney, a club owner, and a former national team athlete — found that Ms. Haney violated the USA Gymnastics Code of Ethical Conduct, Safe Sport Policy, and other policies,” the organization said in the statement.

In addition to coaching Laurie Hernandez, who won one gold and one silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Haney trained Olympic-hopeful and 2018 world champion Riley McCusker.

The ruling against Haney comes after months of hearings involving both Hernandez and McCusker, along with other gymnasts who trained under Haney. Hernandez testified against the coach and McCusker wrote a letter to the hearing panel criticizing Haney, according to the Orange County Register, which first reported the news of Haney’s suspension.

Riley McCusker with former coach Maggie Haney
Luis Robayo/AFP/Getty

A ruling document from the hearing said Haney failed “to provide a safe, positive and healthy environment with a culture of trust and empowerment,” the Southern California News Group reported.

Haney additionally “engaged in severe aggressive behavior toward a minor that included teasing and ridiculing that was intended to control and diminish another person,” the document reads.

A lawyer representing Haney, Russell Prince, said he was not surprised by the panel’s ruling.

“The ruling is regrettable but in no way surprising considering the heavy-handed nature of the investigative and hearing process,” he told SCNG. “There is no fundamental fairness to the manner in which these matters are resolved. Clearly, I would anticipate an arbitration.”

Judie Saunders, a lawyer representing Hernandez and some of the other gymnasts, told The New York Times the suspension is “a micro-step in the right direction for how athletes are treated in the hypercompetitive world of sports.”

Haney did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment at her New Jersey gym, MG Elite Gymnastics.