USOC, USA Gymnastics officials enabled Nassar’s abuse of athletes, investigation reveals
An independent investigation reveals numerous institutions and individuals enabled former USA Gymnastics physician Larry Nassar’s abuse of young athletes, including Michigan State University, the US Olympic Committee and multiple law enforcement agencies.
The law firm Ropes & Gray published the 233-page report on Monday that draws upon more than 100 witness interviews during a 10-month investigation.
On Monday, the USOC fired Chief of Sports Performance Alan Ashley based on the findings of the report, according to USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky.
The report said that in 2015, the former CEO of USA Gymnastics, Steve Penny, informed Ashley and Scott Blackmun, then the olympic committee CEO, that national team members had lodged sexual abuse allegations against Nassar. Nassar was the team doctor and an employee of Michigan State University.
Neither Blackmun nor Ashley “shared the information received from Mr. Penny with others in the organization, and the USOC took no action between July 2015 and the date the Indianapolis Star published its account of Nassar’s child sexual abuse in September 2016,” the report said.
“Specifically, after Mr. Penny advised Mr. Blackmun that USAG had received disturbing allegations about the gymnastics team doctor, Mr. Blackmun did not inform anyone else at the USOC of the allegations, including any member of the USOC Board of Directors or any member of the USOC SafeSport team. Mr. Ashley likewise took no action in response to the information that Mr. Penny had shared with him,” according to the report.
The investigation was commissioned by US Olympic Committee, which issued an apology on Monday.
“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, in a statement.
The USA Gymnastics Board of Directors said it was indebted to the “brave women” who came forward.
“USA Gymnastics is one of the organizations that let them down, and we are working to regain their trust and that of the entire gymnastics community. We have made and will continue to make significant progress to help ensure that gymnastics programs at all levels are offered in a safe, positive and encouraging environment,” the board said in a statement.
Attorney John Manly, who represents more than 180 survivors of Nassar’s abuse, said the report was “a stinging indictment” of the USOC leadership but “incomplete because it was not completely independent from the US Olympic Committee.” He called on Congress to investigate USOC and USA Gymnastics to find out who knew about Nassar’s decades of abuse
CNN is seeking comment from Michigan State University.
Blackmun stepped down in February because of his health, the USOC said. Penny resigned as CEO in March 2017. He was arrested last month on suspicion of removing documents related to Nassar sexual abuse case from a gymnastics training facility in Texas.
The independent report also reveals failures by multiple organizations and law enforcement agencies who “shunned, shamed or disbelieved” survivors.
“Numerous institutions and individuals enabled his abuse and failed to stop him, including coaches at the club and elite level, trainers and medical professionals, administrators and coaches at Michigan State University (“MSU”), and officials at both United States of America Gymnastics (“USAG”) and the United States Olympic Committee (the “USOC”),” the report said.
“Multiple law enforcement agencies, in turn, failed effectively to intervene when presented with opportunities to do so. And when survivors first began to come forward publicly, some were shunned, shamed or disbelieved by others in their own communities. The fact that so many different institutions and individuals failed the survivors does not excuse any of them, but instead reflects the collective failure to protect young athletes,” the reports said.
Nassar was sentenced in January to 40 to 175 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to seven counts of sexual misconduct. Before he was sentenced, more than 150 women and girls said in court Nassar had sexually abused athletes under the guise of medical treatment.
Last week, USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy as the 200,000-member organization struggles to recover from the Nassar sexual abuse scandal.
Several top USA Gymnastics officials have stepped down or were forced out as the group faced criticism over how it handled the child abuse allegations and how it responded after the scandal.