USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny resigns amid sexual abuse scandal

(Reuters) - Steve Penny resigned as president and chief executive of USA Gymnastics on Thursday in the wake of the federation's handling of sexual abuse allegations concerning a former team doctor.

Penny's resignation comes a week after the United States Olympic Committee's board of directors sent a recommendation to USA Gymnastics following reports that the organization turned a blind eye to allegations of sexual misconduct.

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"It has been heartbreaking to learn of instances of abuse and it sickens me that young athletes would be exploited in such a manner," Penny said in a statement.

"My decision to step aside as CEO is solely to support the best interests of USA Gymnastics at this time."

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Last August, an Indianapolis Star report said USA Gymnastics officials failed to alert authorities over allegations of sexual abuse by coaches.

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The organization did not address the specifics of the allegations at the time, saying only that it encouraged victims of abuse to report allegations to police.

The scandal is centered on a former team doctor Larry Nassar, who is currently in custody facing child pornography and sexual abuse charges.

Nassar, once a team doctor for Olympians at USA Gymnastics and a former employee at Michigan State University, is also under investigation by Michigan authorities who say they have received more than 50 complaints of sexual abuse by the doctor.

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue)