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US Olympic Committee Faces Allegations of Sexual Assault Cover-Up

Photo COurtesy of sportsbusinessdaily.com
Written by Nicholle Gotham

Following the Larry Nassar trial, all 18 members of the board of United States Gymnastics were forced to resign due to the board’s unwillingness to stop Nassar’s sexual abuse of gymnasts. The trials of serial child molester, Larry Nassar, former USA Gymnastics national team doctor and physician at Michigan State University, have demanded attention from the nation over the past month. This past Monday, he was sentenced to 40 to 125 years in prison in Eaton County Michigan. This sentence will run concurrently with another sentence, of 40 to 175 years, which he received in Ingham County, Michigan. Both of these sentences will begin after a separate 60 year federal sentence over charges of child pornography.

Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), Scott Blackmun, wrote in a letter to U.S. Gymnastics that all board members resign and called for a “full turnover of leadership.” The letter also included six steps that U.S. Gymnastics must complete or face losing its status as the sport’s governing body. The letter detailed increased USOC oversight and mandated SafeSport and ethics training for U.S. Gymnastics members.

When questioned why gymnasts, parents, and coaches had not been notified that there was a potential child molester involved with treating girls at their respective gymnasiums, Jay Abbott, who at the time was the special agent in charge of the F.B.I. bureau in Indianapolis, where the investigation initially began, stated in a New York Times article that “there was a vigorous debate going on about whether this was a legitimate medical procedure.” He continues by stating, “There is a duty to warn those who might be harmed in the future, but everyone is still trying to ascertain whether a crime has been committed.”

Maggie Nichols, the first gymnast to come forward with information sparking the investigation, was not contacted by federal law enforcement officers for an 11 month period after talking to U.S. Gymnastics, due to the issues surrounding the legitimacy of the “procedures” that Nassar had been performing. She was told not to speak out about the information she had provided, as the organization claimed that they would be responsible for alerting authorities.

Over the course of the past two decades, there have been numerous instances of claims raised to officials involved with Michigan State University (MSU), U.S. Gymnastics and the USOC. These organizations “failed to take any action,” according to one of the lawsuits filed against Nassar in 2017.

Despite claims accusing these organizations of failing to act to protect young athletes, they have denied that they have any involvement in covering up the abuse. Furthermore, all of these organizations have had shake-ups in leadership as well as federal investigations in order to determine who knew what and when and how they dealt with the claims. This has led to even more speculation as to what was going on within the organizations at the time.

Amanda Thomashow, one of the survivors who brought allegations against Nassar to MSU’s Title IX investigators in 2014, stated in an article published by CNN, “I think that the way that my investigation was handled was not in a way to bring out the truth, but instead it was performed in a way to conceal and protect a pedophile.”

USA Gymnastics learned of the abuse in the summer of 2015, and despite a compelling investigation within their organization that resulted in his being barred from treating athletes, he was still allowed to practice as a doctor at Michigan State, due to a slow investigation performed by the FBI.

Aly Raisman, who accused Nassar of sexual abuse, highlighted the fact that “this is bigger than Larry Nassar.” She urged that an independent investigation be conducted for both the U.S. Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee regarding sexual misconduct of athletes. “If we don’t figure out how it happened, we can’t be confident that it won’t happen again,” said Raisman.

 

 

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Nicholle Gotham