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  • More than 100 Olympians and Paralympians Are Now Calling for USOC Resignations.


    01/11/19

    January 11, 2019 Please contact:
    Ed Vasquez
    408-420-6558 or ed@ejvcommunications.com


    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    (Washington, D.C.)
    More than 100 Olympians and Paralympians Are Now Calling for USOC Resignations.

    The Olympians are joined by the Army of Survivors and other victims of sexual abuse in sport. The number
    of Olympians and Paralympians now calling for USOC resignations has doubled in less than a week, and will
    continue to grow. Elite athletes and sport leaders are also now joining this effort.

    The Committee to Restore Integrity to the USOC is calling for the near-complete resignation of the U.S.
    Olympic Committee board and the senior leadership. The recent Ropes & Gray investigation and the
    Congressional House subcommittee report call for profound cultural changes to the USOC; a reorganization
    that puts athletes’ interests and their well-being first, rather than corporate or employee interests. The
    athletes’ voice in leadership and governance must be a requirement, rather than a PR platitude.

    However, this week’s appointment of Rich Bender and re-appointment of Steve Mesler to four-year terms on
    to the USOC Board represents a willful blindness to the cultural and structural changes necessary.
    In addition, current Board members did not move to reconsider dangerous USOC policies that the Ropes &
    Gray and Congressional Reports highlighted; policies that continue to leave athletes vulnerable to abuse and
    retaliation. Instead, USOC leadership kept repeating that it was Congress’ fault; that the Sports Act
    prevented them from helping athletes, even though that was never true. (See attached legal memo on USOC
    near-total authority over NGBs under the Sports Act and the USOC bylaws.)

     Rich Bender has been associated with the NGB Council for a number of years. During this time
    Bender aligned himself with Scott Blackmun’s insistence on NGB “self-governance”; an identified
    problematic strategy of ignoring athletes that has led to disastrous results. Similarly imitating
    Blackmun’s modus operandi, Bender intimidated and insulted athlete-leaders that spoke out against
    the USOC’s current culture – and in support of athletes’ rights – during a joint session of the
    Athletes’ Advisory Council (AAC) and to the National Governing Body Council (NGBC). Bender’s
    retaliatory conduct is precisely the problematic institutional response that Ropes & Gray and the
    Congressional report highlighted as dangerous. In addition, Bender’s fellow NGB Council member,
    Darrin Steele, faced pointed written questioning from Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut after a
    subcommittee hearing for playing a similar role in that session. Formal complaints were made about
    Bender’s retaliatory conduct, yet the USOC did not investigate these complaints nor did senior
    USOC leadership speak to AAC representatives who witnessed his conduct when considering
    Bender for the USOC Board position. Finally, Rich Bender has been the CEO of USA Wrestling, an
    NGB that is itself out of compliance with the Sports Act.

     Steve Mesler was just re-appointed to another 4-year term, even though he has publicly stated that
    he does not represent the athletes in his duties as a USOC Board member. Instead, he hides behind a
    fiduciary responsibility to the organization, one that all Board members have, but other members do
    not consider it a limitation to their work. While in theory there should be no conflict between athlete
    and corporate interests, in reality their interests frequently conflict. Mostly alarming, Mesler
    frequently defends the USOC’s cultural status quo. In fact, he has asserted that the USOC will
    always do what is in the athletes’ best interest; that cultural changes advocated by the AAC, by the
    Ropes & Gray report, by and by Congress are unnecessary. Mesler’s philosophical and practical
    positions are inconsistent with his appointment as the ATHLETE REPRESENTATVIVE to the
    board. The AAC was not asked for their feedback in the Board’s process to reconfirm Mesler for his
    second term. This is in direct contradiction to the USOC’s new public relations insistence on an
    “Athletes First” approach.

    Together, these appointments demonstrate that the board is functioning without regard to the Ropes & Gray
    Report or to Congressional House Subcommittee Report. Worse, the USOC is still functioning without
    regard to the interests of its athletes. The athletes, elected by their peers, were not consulted about any of the
    new appointments as they were being vetted.

    While much of the media surrounding the release of the Ropes & Gray report focused on former CEO Scott
    Blackmun’s bold lies to the investigators, (Blackmun did not lift a finger to help either USA Gymnastics or
    the athletes), Blackmun’s actions without his lies to Ropes & Gray investigators is actually worse;
    Blackmun’s inaction was standard USOC board policy. Athlete-complaints were to be handled by those
    inflicting harm on the athlete, their NGB, and, as matter of board policy, athletes were to be ignored by the
    USOC.

    Ropes & Gray described the USOC and USA Gymnastics (USAG) as creating an “ecosystem” that facilitated
    Larry Nassar’s criminal acts; the organization and individuals ignored red flags, failed to recognize textbook
    grooming behaviors, established no boundaries between adults and children, and dismissed clear calls for
    help from girls and young women. The USOC “…did not meaningfully involve athletes in decisions or
    policy-making; nor did it provide an effective avenue for athletes to raise and resolve complaints involving
    sexual misconduct matters.” Yesterday’s actions reveal that the USOC is still not including athletes in the
    most important decisions and policy-making.

    Because of the most recent developments, the Committee to Restore Integrity to the USOC is making the
    bold recommendation to remove most of the USOC Board and its Senior Leadership; the USOC has now
    proven it cannot reform itself. Despite actual knowledge of real athlete-vulnerability of sexual abuse and
    ongoing retaliation, to our knowledge, no member of the USOC board or senior leadership called for a reconsideration of these dangerous USOC policies prior to Congressional and media involvement. No Board
    member called upon Congress to rectify any barrier that the Sports Act may have imposed. The USOC Board
    paid more attention to lavish employee compensation and perks than to athlete well-being. As such, any
    current member of the USOC Board who cannot demonstrate that they opposed the USOC’s official “refuse
    to help athletes” policy, should be removed.

    Ed Williams, J.D., Olympian, one of the architects of the Sports Act in 1978, and lawyer frequently
    representing both athletes and NGBs, said, “The Sports Act mandates not only that athletes be represented on
    the USOC Board but that the athletes’ viewpoints be clearly heard. That can only be achieved by the
    selection of athlete reps to the USOC Board by the Athletes’ Advisory Council, and not by the selection of
    athletes to the Board who the Board believes will best suit its PR purposes. Only when athletes can choose
    their own representatives to the USOC Board, will the intent of the Sports Act to have athlete representation
    on the Board be fulfilled.”

    Nancy Hogshead-Makar, J.D., Olympian and CEO of Champion Women, said, “It is disappointing that the
    USOC still fails to look inward, even after independent reports demonstrate their culpability in failing to help
    athletes. Their two recent appointments to the Board, without athlete involvement, further demonstrate why
    they should not be leading America’s Olympic movement. The problem remains; we must strengthen
    athletes’ rights against bureaucrats acting with a five-ring-fueled sense of self-importance.”

    Because the USOC cannot rehabilitate itself, Team Integrity calls on Congressional action to re-write the
    Sports Act. It is shameful that athletes are still struggling to get the protections and representation Congress
    intended to give them when the Sports Act was first passed in 1978.
    Members of Team Integrity include:
    Executive Committee:
    Ed Williams, J.D., Oly
    Nancy Hogshead-Makar, J.D.,
    Oly
    Robert Allard, J.D.
    Robert Andrews, MA, LMFT
    Jessica Armstrong, J.D.
    Eli Bremer, Oly
    Chuck Foster, Former USOC
    Officer
    Herman R. Frazier, Oly, Former
    USOC Officer
    Kathy Johnson Clarke, Oly
    Lucila Hemmingsen, J.D.
    Micki King, Oly
    Jon Little, J.D.
    Donna Lopiano, Ph.D.
    Charles Milam, former USOC
    Board member
    Eva Rodansky
    Pat Rodowsky
    Steven Sexton, Ph.D.
    Jennifer Sey
    Jennifer Spiegel, J.D.
    Olympians, Coaches and Elite
    Athletes:
    Mary Harvey, Oly
    Greg Louganis, Oly
    Scott Johnson, Oly
    Julianne McNamara, Oly
    Ariana Kukors Smith, Oly
    Brian Goodell, Oly
    Martina Navratilova, Oly
    Nancy Lieberman, Oly
    Horace Holden, Oly
    Pam Shriver, Oly
    Bill Stapleton, Oly
    Dave Berkoff, Oly
    Caroline Lind, Oly
    Cynthia Potter, Oly
    Taraje Williams-Murray, Oly
    Don Barcome, Jr., Oly
    Larry Hough, Oly, former AAC
    and USOC Officer
    Mitzi Kramer Tighe, Oly
    Marci Frederick, Oly
    Scott Donie, Oly
    Cristina Teuscher Fabbri, Oly
    Ian Whatley, Oly
    Keith Sanderson, Oly
    Seth Kelsey, Oly
    Bonny Warner Simi, Oly
    Sebastian DeFrancesco, Oly
    Joe Jacobi, Oly
    Sean O’Neill, Oly
    Eric Barnes, Oly
    Barb Weinstein McGrath, Oly
    Debby McCormick, Oly
    Nick Peterson, Oly
    Jennifer Hooker Brinegar, Oly
    Allen James, Oly
    Brenda Borgh Bartlett, Oly
    Janis Hape Dowd, Oly
    Deb Armstrong, Oly
    Anthony Zahn, Oly
    Andrew Hermann, Oly
    Carrie Sheinberg, Oly
    Sue Heon-Preston, Oly
    Allison Wagner, Oly
    Linda Jezek Wittwer, Oly
    Inga Thompson, Oly
    Tiffany Cohen, Oly
    Joan Hansen, Oly
    Tracy Evans-Land, Oly
    Cathy (Catherine) Hearn, Oly
    Betsy Mitchell, Oly
    Doug Lewis, Oly
    Carrie Steinseifer Bates, Oly
    Steve Gregg, Oly
    Jack Elder, Oly
    Deena Deardurff Schmidt, Oly
    Arlene Limas, Oly
    Stacey Liapis-Fuchsgruber, Oly
    Troy Dumias, Oly
    Justin Dumias, Oly
    Christopher R. (Tiff) Wood, Oly
    Tim Caldwell, Oly
    John Morton, Oly
    Loren Drum, Oly
    Laurel (Brassey) Iverson, Oly
    Jay Bowerman, Oly
    Richard Mize, Oly
    Glen Eberle, Oly
    Dennis Donahue, Oly
    Megan Neyer, Ph.D., Oly
    Erik Henriksen, Oly
    Dennis Donahue, Oly
    Judy Blumberg, Oly
    Tom Lough, Ph.D., Oly
    Caroline Pingatore Holmes, Oly
    David C. Johnson, M.D., Oly
    Dana Schoenfield Reyes, Oly
    Pat Winslow Connolly, Oly
    Arlene Limas, Oly
    Jeff Olson, Oly
    Khadevis Robinson, Oly
    Jim Galanes, Oly
    Keith Frostad, Oly
    Victoria King, M.D., Oly
    Lynette Love, Oly
    Kay Poe Sheffield, Oly
    Julia Chase-Brand, Oly
    Kendis Moore Drake, Oly
    Pete Karns, Oly
    Caroline Lalive, Oly
    Jeffrey Swider-Peltz, Oly
    Cathy Jean Marino, Oly
    Alison Owen Bradley, Oly
    Horace Holden, Oly
    Sue Baker, Oly
    Craig Ward, Oly
    Bill Koch, Oly
    Debbie Meyer, Oly
    Jeff Farrell, Oly
    Steve Cohen, Oly
    John Caldwell, Oly and Oly Coach
    Marty Hall, Oly Coach
    Don Gambril, Oly Coach
    Frank Thomas, Olympic Coach
    Art Stegen, National Team Coach
    Jacqueline A. Brummer, J.D.
    Monica Rowland
    Dawn Riley
    Sara Teristi
    Carmen Small
    Sara Teristi
    Susie Kincade
    Rene Henry
    Perry Toles, J.D.
    Nate Di Palma
    Becca Gillespy Peter
    Julie Whitman DeLucia
    Levi Kirkpatrick
    Athletes Abused in Olympic
    Movement:
    The Army of Survivors,
    -including Judge Rosemarie
    Aquilina
    Rachael Denhollander
    Morgan McCall
    Sarah Klein
    Danielle Moore, Psy.D.
    Diana Nyad
    Jessica Howard
    Bridie Farrell
    Jancy Thompson
    Debra Denithorne Grodensky
    Dani Bostick
    Mandy Maloon
    Melissa Merson
    Olivia Venuto
    Danielle Moore, Psy.D.
    Louise Harder
    Grace French
    Sarah Power Barnard
    Kay Rogness
    Julie Bremner Romias
    Lisa Johnson
    Sarah Ehekircher
    Michele Kurtzman Greenfield

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