PtG Article 12.12.2018

USOC among organisations that failed to protect athletes: Nassar abuse report

Independent report into the circumstances that enabled the many abuse cases of former US Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar finds USOC to be among the organisations whose ‘inaction and concealment’ had consequences for the athletes.

In 2016, former US Gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar was found guilty of having abused more than 250 young people including athletes. Earlier this year, Nassar pleaded guilty to ten of the cases and is currently serving a +300-years sentence in prison.  

An independent report into the factors that made this sort of abuse possible was released this week. The report is commissioned by the Olympic Committee of the United States (USOC) and conducted by law firm Ropes & Gray.

The independent report finds that Larry Nassar “acted within an ecosystem that facilitated his criminal act” and that while his decade-long abuse of girls and young women is his responsibility, “he did not operate in a vacuum”.

Several institutions and people are named in the report for having failed to stop Nassar, including US Gymnastics and USOC.

“These institutions and individuals ignored red flags, failed to recognize textbook grooming behaviours, or in some egregious instances, dismissed clear calls for help from girls and young women who were being abused by Nassar,” the repors says, adding that elite gymnastics and Olympic sports were “conducive” to Nassar's “criminal designs”.

Two high-ranking USOC officials are pointed out in the report for having done nothing to report or stop Nassar even though they had been made aware of abuse accusations against him: former CEO, Scott Blackmun and former chief of performance, Alan Ashley. Blackmun resigned in February 2018 citing health reasons and Ashley was let go from USOC following the release of the report.

Both sports bodies take on the blame and recognise that they have let down their athletes. 

“USA Gymnastics is one of the organizations that let them (the athletes) down, and we are working to regain their trust and that of the entire gymnastics community,” said a statement from the gymnastics body after the release of the independent report.

Last week, US Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy and USOC has begun a process to revoke the federation.

USOC is also battling to restore a tarnished reputation following the abuse revelations and is currently working on implementing a series of reforms that will introduce stronger accountability measures, strengthened athlete protection programmes as well as other initiatives that will help the NOC regain trust, says a statement from USOC, issued in reponse to the report.

“The U.S. Olympic community failed the victims, survivors and their families, and we apologize again to everyone who has been harmed,” said Susanne Lyons, USOC independent board member and incoming board chair.

Full report and executive summary here: