Faced with mounting condemnation and waves of troubling allegations, U.S. Olympic Committee leaders had few answers Friday for the future of their organization.
The USOC has come under siege in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal that saw hundreds of young athletes molested.
Earlier this week, an independent report detailed the organization’s failure to respond to initial allegations against Nassar. Congress joined the fray Friday, asking the FBI to investigate whether a former USOC executive made “materially false statements” before a Senate panel.
These developments have brought calls for the entire USOC board to resign, along with speculation the organization might file for bankruptcy amid lawsuits from Nassar victims.
USOC leaders were asked if either of those possibilities was raised during a day-long board meeting in the San Francisco Bay Area.
“That was not part of the discussion,” chief executive Sarah Hirshland told reporters.
Nassar, 55, who worked as a sports doctor for Michigan State, USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic team, is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography and a history of molesting athletes under the guise of providing medical treatment.
The scandal has rocked amateur sports in the U.S., with USA Gymnastics overhauling its leadership, filing for bankruptcy and potentially losing its authority as a national governing body.
The USOC has come under increased pressure because of this week’s report, which it commissioned. The law firm of Ropes & Gray confirmed that former USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun first heard about allegations against Nassar in 2015, but that he and a colleague kept the matter to themselves for more than a year.
Nassar’s wrongdoing did not become widely known until the Indianapolis Star wrote a series of articles in late 2016, by which time more women had been molested.
Blackmun, who eventually resigned to deal with prostate cancer, was questioned by Congress last summer.
On Friday, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D.-Conn.) alleged that, in written testimony, Blackmun claimed to have informed his staff about Nassar immediately after hearing the allegations in 2015.
This statement “misled our subcommittee — harming the investigation and ability to develop policy,” the senators wrote in a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice. “Just as importantly, survivors of abuse have had to wait longer for the truth and longer for systemic changes to help prevent others from similar injury.”
USOC leaders declined to comment on a potential investigation, saying they are focused on improving resources for athlete safety.
They acknowledged that one of the first steps — a public, comprehensive list that could keep banned coaches from being hired by local clubs — has yet to be adequately established.
When asked if Ropes & Gray had recommended specific organizational changes to prevent another Nassar scandal, incoming USOC chairwoman Susanne Lyons said only: “They did not have a simple suggestion or answer.”