By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – The United States Olympics Committee failed to protect athletes from the threat of sexual abuse, according to a report released on Monday that showed some top executives took no action as the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal was unfolding.
The report, which was commissioned by the USOC and carried out by law firm Ropes & Gray, offered details on what it called the “inaction” of former chief executive Scott Blackmun and former chief of sport performance Alan Ashley.
Nassar, who was a team doctor for USA Gymnastics, was sentenced to up to 300 years in prison in two different trials last winter after more than 350 women testified about abuse at his hands, including Olympic champions Aly Raisman and Jordyn Wieber.
According to the 233-page report, Blackmun and Ashley were made aware of allegations against Nassar by then-USA Gymnastics chief executive Steve Penny in July 2015 but neither shared the information with others in the organization.
The report also said that dozens of girls and young women were abused during the year-long period between mid-2015 and September 2016 when the Nassar story broke.
“The U.S. Olympic community failed the victims, survivors and their families, and we apologise again to everyone who has been harmed,” Susanne Lyons, an USOC independent board member and the incoming board chair, said in a statement.
Blackmun resigned in February for medical reasons. Ashley was fired on Monday after USOC Chief Executive Sarah Hirshland was made aware of the report.
The report called Nassar’s ability to abuse athletes for nearly 30 years “a manifestation of the broader failures at USAG and the USOC to adopt appropriate child-protective policies and procedures to ensure a culture of safety for young athletes.”
According to the report, which included interviews with more than 100 witnesses and had access to over 1.3 million documents, Nassar found an environment in elite gymnastics and Olympic sports that proved to be conducive to his criminal designs.
The USOC has already implemented reforms and initiatives, including instituting new leadership and stronger accountability measures. It is also seeking to revoke USA Gymnastics’ status as the national governing body for the sport.
Hirshland, who took over as USOC chief executive in July, said in the statement the organization will use the report’s findings to do everything possible to prevent something similar from happening in the future.
“Sexual abuse, harassment and discrimination have no place in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic community,” she said. “And it’s on all of us – member organizations, institutions and individuals alike – to foster a healthy culture for competitive excellence.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Leslie Adler)