(ATR) USOC chairman Larry Probst says “we think we did what we were supposed to do” with regards to handling the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.
Larry Probst in PyeongChang (ATR)
The traditional United States Olympic Committee pre-Olympics press conference was dominated by questions about the committee’s handling of the Nassar scandal and its fallout. Probst was joined in the conference by USOC board members and IOC Executive Board members Anita DeFrantz and Angela Ruggiero. U.S. chef de mission Alan Ashley and chief marketing officer Lisa Baird rounded out the leadership on stage in PyeongChang.
Probst started the conference by reading a statement from the USOC that said the “Olympic system failed” the athletes abused by Nassar. He said that he listened to all the impact statements and “felt their sense of betrayal, sorrow, and anger”.
The ongoing independent investigation aims to find out “who knew what” and what they did with any information.
“We will take appropriate action based on the findings of that independent investigation,” Probst said. “Our athletes deserve the best care we can give them. You have our full commitment to make sure this happens.”
Until the investigation is complete do not expect any changes in personnel with the USOC. As U.S. Senators have called for chief executive Scott Blackmun to step down, Probst says he “served with distinction” at the USOC. As the investigation continues without a timeline, Probst said the board of directors will continue to stand behind Blackmun.
“We think he did what he was supposed to do,” Probst said.
Probst bristled at the idea that the USOC emerged from the scandal unscathed, saying that “there has been a tremendous amount of criticism” aimed at the committee. He also hit back on the need for a culture change at the USOC telling journalists that the committee “just has to do a better job”.
That notion of doing a better job, Probst says, extends to the entire Olympic family. Probst repeatedly said that it was the Olympic system, including the IOC and international federations, which failed the young gymnasts, not just the United States. Probst clarified his remark to make it clear that the USOC was a central part of this failure.
“The Olympic system in the U.S. failed these athletes, and we are part of the Olympic system,” Probst said.
The USOC faced intense scrutiny from journalists about the Nassar situation (ATR)
In addition to calling for a complete culture change at USA Gymnastics, Probst said that a subcommittee has been set up to review the USOC’s interactions with national governing bodies. Currently, as laid out in the Ted Stevens Act, the USOC can only charter NGBs for different sports.
That autonomy has led each NGB to flourish on its own, but has also allowed a layer of separation when scandals hit.
“We are carefully examining our relationships with the NGBs, who right now are independent,” Probst said. “Clearly some things have occurred. So we need a different relationship than in the past.
“Work is starting as we speak and I do expect some changes in the future.”
The USOC was present for one of the final sentencing hearings for Larry Nassar, but Probst says the USOC “took too long to reach out to” athletes abused by Nassar. He also apologized for the USOC’s delay in being at the sentencing hearings.
“That was simply a mistake,” Probst said. “That was an error in judgment. We should have been there.”
Written by Aaron Bauer
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