in

USOC knew of cases in other sports, did nothing


Nancy Armour

 |  USA TODAY Sports

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Before gymnastics it was swimming. And taekwondo. And speedskating. And judo.

Hundreds upon hundreds of young athletes have been sexually abused by coaches, fellow athletes and an acclaimed team doctor in recent decades. The circumstances might differ, but there’s one thing tying all of these horrific crimes together.

The U.S. Olympic Committee.

Time and again, it passed the buck, throwing up its hands instead of moving to act. The individual sports federations were independent, the USOC line went, so their rules and the predators they enabled were out of the USOC’s hands.

More: Oversight Committee says it will investigate USOC, USA Gymnastics and others

More: USOC stands behind CEO Scott Blackmun until investigation is complete

Only now, with Congress breathing down the USOC’s neck again and two senators calling for CEO Scott Blackmun to resign, has the USOC finally acknowledged the magnitude of its failures.

“To the women, both those who chose to testify and those who did not, who have demonstrated tremendous bravery, poise and strength in the most difficult circumstances imaginable, let me say this: The Olympic system failed you and we are so incredibly sorry,” chairman Larry Probst said Friday during the USOC’s news conference before the Pyeongchang Olympics began.

“Words cannot express the anger that the board and leadership of the U.S. Olympic Committee and me personally feel about the human toll that Larry Nassar’s abuse has taken on these young women and their families.”

Probst’s apology was both appropriate and long overdue.

But it wasn’t nearly enough.

USA Gymnastics is deserving of much of the anger and rage that’s been directed its way. Olympic champions Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber are among the more than 260 women abused by Nassar, the longtime national team physician, and the rigid culture imposed by Martha Karolyi with the full support of the federation undoubtedly helped him go undetected for the better part of two decades.

But to focus solely on gymnastics is to miss the point. And, more importantly, miss an opportunity to prevent the next Larry Nassar from preying on young athletes.

“We think that we did what we were supposed to do,” Probst said. “Could we have done more? Of course. You can always do more.”

Like take action when NGB heads point out that the Olympic movement is an abuse crisis in the making and ask the USOC to develop a uniform policy to protect young athletes, as the then-head of USA Gymnastics did in 1999 and the head of USA Swimming did in 2004 and 2005. 

Step in when athletes tell the USOC they were abused, as speedskaters and taekwondo athletes did in 2011. And 2013. And 2014. Follow up when an NGB says it has reported a predator to the FBI, as USA Gymnastics, according to the Wall Street Journal, did – twice – in the summer of 2015.

All of these failings are laid out in a memo by a group that calls itself The Committee to Restore Integrity to the USOC.

As damning as the memo is, it doesn’t even cover everything. For years and years and years, the USOC has been told that its athletes are vulnerable, and it has either said it’s somebody else’s problem or kicked the can down the road.

No more. The USOC bears as much blame as anyone for Nassar’s abuse going unchecked, because it had the opportunity to put stiffer protections in place years before and didn’t bother.

Probst said the USOC will consider restructuring its “relationships” with the NGBs to give the USOC more oversight. That’s a start, and it needs to happen sooner rather than later.

But the USOC must go further. It forced USA Gymnastics’ then-president and CEO Steve Penny to resign last March, and has demanded a complete overhaul in the federation’s culture. It’s not as if the USOC is any better, however, and someone needs to answer for that.

Asked about Blackmun’s future, Probst voiced his support. The USOC doesn’t want to be hasty, he added, preferring to wait for the results of an independent investigation before making any personnel changes.

But that investigation wouldn’t be needed had the USOC done its job after any of the other abuse scandals. Gymnastics, swimming, taekwondo, speedskating, judo. How many more children’s lives will be ruined before the USOC finally gets it right?

***

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour. 

 



Source link

What do you think?

0 points
Upvote Downvote

Total votes: 0

Upvotes: 0

Upvotes percentage: 0.000000%

Downvotes: 0

Downvotes percentage: 0.000000%

Handbag stolen from woman outside hospital moments after her mother passes away

Iouri Podladtchikov will miss chance at more Olympic gold due to injuries