USOC, USA Gymnastics enabled Nassar’s abuse, probe finds

Olympic rings. Image: Wikipedia/Public Domain

Dec. 11 (UPI) — The U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics failed to protect athletes from danger by enabling Larry Nassar‘s sexual abuse, an independent investigation revealed Monday found.

The investigation, commissioned by the USOC and conducted by the law firm Ropes & Gray, found that both organizations were slow to act upon learning of Nassar’s abuse and “each in their own way, maintained secrecy regarding the Nassar allegations and focused on controlling the flow of information about his alleged misconduct.”

Investigators found that former USOC CEO Scott Blackmun relied on USA Gymnastics to move forward with the allegations against Nassar, declining to inform any board members or consult USOC employees with an expertise in sexual abuse.

USA Gymnastics in turn reported Nassar to the FBI and allowed him to retire without informing officials at Michigan State University, where he continued to assault girls and young women.

The report showed that Blackmun and USOC chief of sport performance Alan Ashley learned of Nassar’s abuses from then-USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny on July 25, 2015, more than a year before the information was made public when two accusers told their stories to the Indianapolis Star in September 2016.

Neither of the two men “engaged with USAG on the reported concerns, shared the information with others at the USOC or took any other action in response to the information from Mr. Penny to ensure that responsible steps were being taken by USAG and the USOC to protect athletes,” investigators found.

Blackmun told investigators he “initiated an internal effort at the USOC to alert his SafeSport team to the allegations and to confirm that the USOC was taking all appropriate steps to respond to the allegations and ensure athlete safety,” in the weeks after learning of the allegations against Nassar.

The report found those conversations never took place and legal counsel to the USOC “found no documentary support in the form of an email, calendar entry or other record at the USOC that reflects any internal project or working group or other effort to address the Nassar allegations until after the Indianapolis Star broke the story about Nassar’s abuse in September 2016.”

Blackmun also confirmed he received and purposely deleted the email naming Nassar as the team doctor accused of sexual misconduct “noting its sensitivity and explaining that he was concerned about the potential for his email account to be hacked.”

Blackmun resigned Feb. 28, and Ashley was fired Monday after new USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland learned of the report’s findings.

“We have said it before, and we will say it again: There is no place for this type of abuse in the Olympic and Paralympic movement. And our effort will never stop. We have work to do. We will continue to use the report findings, and we will work toward empowering, protecting and supporting our athletes, and we know that that work will never stop,” Hirshland told USA Today.

Nassar was accused of abusing more than 260 women and girls, and he is currently serving a 60-year sentence for federal child pornography crimes as well as 40 to 175 years for assaulting nine girls and women in Michigan.


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