Nov 21 (Reuters) - USA Gymnastics will face a hearing that could lead to the organisation's demise after it decided against surrendering its status as the national governing body (NGB) for the sport, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) said on Wednesday.
The USOC filed a complaint 16 days ago, seeking to remove USA Gymnastics' recognition as a national body following the sexual abuse of hundreds of female athletes by ex-team doctor Larry Nassar.
The Olympic body offered USA Gymnastics the option of giving up its recognition voluntarily.
Yet in an open letter to the gymnastics community, the USOC said USA Gymnastics had replied to its complaint on Tuesday and had chosen not to relinquish its recognition, instead asking questions about the matter and the USOC hearing process.
"This is a situation in which there are no perfect solutions. Seeking to revoke recognition is not a decision that the USOC came to easily, but we continue to believe it is the right action," USOC chief executive Sarah Hirshland said in a statement.
"While there are important questions to answer as we move forward with this process, we are eager for the hearing panel to begin its work and for our board to come to a final determination."
Hirshland said she will select a three-person panel with representatives from the USOC board of directors, the National Governing Bodies Council and the Athletes' Advisory Council.
The panel will then review Hirshland's complaint and USAG's response, hold a hearing, create a report and recommendation for the full USOC board and then the board will take an action.
During the process, which Hirshland said could last a few months, USA Gymnastics will continue to operate as a fully recognised member NGB of the USOC.
USA Gymnastics said in a statement on Tuesday that it is committed to making an informed decision regarding its status as a national governing body.
"After meeting last week, the Board of Directors has submitted important questions to the USOC," said USAG.
"The decisions are challenging, and additional information will assist the Board in making an informed decision that will best serve the survivors, the athletes, professional members, clubs and the sport."
Should USA Gymnastics ultimately lose its recognition, it would essentially sever its affiliation with the Olympic Movement and the USOC would assume control of its high performance program on an interim basis.
The USOC would remain in that role until a new or existing organisation has been identified to assume the responsibility of serving as the recognised national governing body for gymnastics.
USA Gymnastics has been in turmoil ever since dozens of female gymnasts, including Olympic champions such as Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles, came forward to accuse Nassar of sexual abuse.
Nassar was sentenced in February to up to 125 years in prison after some 200 women testified about decades of abuse at his hands.
Over the past two years, three USA Gymnastics CEOs -- Steve Penny, Kerry Perry and interim chief Mary Bono -- have been forced out of the organisation after being criticised for the way they handled the situation. (Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto Editing by Toby Davis)