(ATR) The possibility of a takeover of the U.S. Olympic Committee could be an option Congress might demand as a solution to the USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal.
With the publication of a report by independent investigators Ropes & Gray, questions left unanswered in congressional hearings this year might be answered. The report was commissioned by the USOC 10 months ago to provide an independent review of the circumstances of the worst known instance of sexual abuse in sport.
The Ropes & Gray report says thousands of instances of abuse were carried out against hundreds of young gymnasts by Larry Nassar. He was the doctor for the USA Gymnastics national team until 2015, when the first allegations of abuse came to the surface.
The report says key USOC executives kept silent about allegations of abuse carried out through 2015 by Nassar. He’s now in prison for the rest of his life.
The Ropes & Gray report says that silence was the course of action taken by then-CEO Scott Blackmun and Alan Ashley, fired Monday as sports performance chief after 12 years at the USOC.
Blackmun, CEO since 2010, resigned in February claiming health problems.
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS), chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security, which has oversight of the USOC, welcomed the report.
"It is positive that USOC’s independent investigators published their report today, if only so that the USOC can no longer cite an ongoing independent investigation as its reason for delaying change," he says. Moran’s subcommittee held three hearings on the gymnastics scandal this year.
"As my subcommittee finalizes our extensive, bipartisan report — containing legislative and non-legislative recommendations to better protect young athletes from sexual predators — I expect USOC to cooperate with Congress and expediently begin its process of implementing much-needed cultural
and procedural change,” says Moran.
The question for Moran and his colleagues to ponder is whether the Ropes & Gray report and its finding of seeming indifference on the part of USOC executives will be an aggravating factor in changes the Senators will propose.
Some changes are anticipated with the 1978 Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act law that established the responsibilities and powers of the USOC. Congress could saddle the committee with new oversight duties that might give the USOC power to more closely monitor national governing bodies.
Meanwhile a new team takes shape at USOC headquarters in Colorado Springs. Susanne Lyons takes over as chair January 1, while Sarah Hirshland has been CEO since August. Congress might give the new leadership a chance to deliver some early signs of change before crafting legislation.
The move by the USOC to end the affiliation with USA Gymnastics will be watched for its efficacy in solving the NGB’s leadership crisis. USA Gymnastics is challenging the USOC move.
Compounding the situation is the bankruptcy filing earlier this month and the hundred-plus lawsuits filed against USA Gymnastics. Some include the USOC.
Just as the USOC has exercised pressure on USA Gymnastics, Congress could try the same thing with the USOC. Legislators could threaten to revoke the USOC federal charter as part of the demand for substantial change and accountability. John Manly, an attorney who is representing some of the abuse victims, believes the USOC should be shut down.
Such a drastic move would have to be considered carefully. Creating a new organization to replace the existing USOC would seem a complicated endeavor. Exactly what kind of organization is needed and how would it be different from the current Olympic committee?
That’s the situation the USOC is facing right now with USA Gymnastics. Should the USOC deliver on its threat to boot the NGB from membership, building a new governing body for the sport would seem to be a massive challenge nobody’s likely eager to conquer.
Reported by Ed Hula.
For general comments or questions, click here.
Your best source of news about the Olympics is www.aroundtherings.com, for subscribers only.