"He's guilty as sin": Former gymnast Jessica Howard slams ex-USA Gymnastics CEO

Former Team USA gymnast on Steve Penny

In an interview on "CBS This Morning," former Team USA gymnast and USA Gymnastics board member Jessica Howard excoriated the organization for caring only about "money and medals" and called its ex-president Steve Penny "guilty as sin."

Penny was arrested Wednesday after a grand jury indicted him for allegedly ordering documents be removed from the training center where former Team USA doctor Larry Nassar abused some athletes. Nassar was sentenced to decades in prison earlier this year after hundreds of women and girls accused him of molesting them under the guise of medical treatment. Howard says she was also abused by Nassar.

USA Gymnastics says it's fully cooperating with the investigation and "will continue to do so to help the survivors and our community heal from this tragedy."

Howard, who served on the board with Penny for four years, said he was an "intimidating figure" nobody wanted to cross. She recalled a time when he told her, "Why do we even have your sport, it doesn't bring in any money," referring to rhythmic gymnastics, in which Howard is a national champion.

When Penny was arrested he said he didn't know he'd been charged in connection with Nassar's sexual abuse case. His lawyer told CBS News he "is confident that he did nothing criminal." 

Howard vehemently disagreed.

Parents of Larry Nassar abuse victims share pain, call for accountability

"He has been orchestrating this from the very beginning. ... As soon as I joined the board, I found out from my first meeting that all they were interested in was money and medals," Howard said. "This guy's been guilty as sin from the very beginning. He's known about this since 2015. He has tried to silence everyone who was involved at the very beginning. … He gave Larry Nassar a story that allowed him to continue working with young athletes at other gyms who he clearly did not care about, and one of them was as young as 8 years old… children that could have been saved from sexual abuse."

Since Penny's departure from USA Gymnastics last year, the organization's leadership has continued to be plagued by scandal. Kerry Perry spent nine months as president of USA Gymnastics before resigning amid pressure from athletes who felt she was mishandling the fallout from Nassar's abuse. And earlier this week, interim president Mary Bono resigned after just five days on the job after gymnasts criticized her connection to a law firm that allegedly covered up Nassar's abuse.

"From the start of this situation, they have shown over and over and over and over again that they are incapable of dealing with this situation. They cannot make decisions that change policies that protect athletes," Howard said. "They allow emotional and physical abuse that makes… female athletes perfect victims for sexual predators."

Howard sees "decertification" of USA Gymnastics as the only way forward.

"I think if they work with the victims, if they work with the right people, they work with the right experts, we have a shot at rebuilding something strong so our athletes can be safe."