Some of the institutions that enabled or turned a blind eye to the decades of abuse perpetrated by USA Gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar are beginning to face consequences. Recently, three USAG board members resigned, and in a statement released by CEO Scott Blackmun Wednesday afternoon, the United States Olympic Committee has called for the resignation of all remaining board members. Blackmun also said that the USOC considered decertifying USAG, but felt that would do more harm than good.
1. We Must Change the Culture of the Sport. This was the primary recommendation of the independent Deborah Daniels Report on USA Gymnastics and the athlete testimony underlined its importance. We heard athletes describe being unsure or unaware of how to report abuse and to whom, and sometimes even what constitutes abuse. We heard athletes describe being afraid or discouraged from reporting abuse. We heard athletes describe feeling hurt, betrayed, discounted and alone. Since October of last year, we have been engaged in direct talks with USAG leadership on this fundamental point. New leadership at the board level is critical and you recently saw three USAG board resignations. Further changes are necessary to help create a culture that fosters safe sport practice, offers athletes strong resources in education and reporting, and ensures the healing of the victims and survivors. This includes a full turnover of leadership from the past, which means that all current USAG directors must resign.
2. We Must Change the Governance Structure of the NGB. We need to help USA Gymnastics better support its mission, which is to provide the best resources and safest environment for athletes to train and compete. We have strongly considered decertifying USAG as a National Governing Body. But USA Gymnastics includes clubs and athletes who had no hand in this and who need to be supported. We believe it would hurt more than help the athletes and their sport. But we will pursue decertification if USA Gymnastics does not fully embrace the necessary changes in their governance structure along with other mandated changes under review right now.
USOC also said it would be enlisting an independent third party to investigate "how an abuse of this proportion could have gone undetected for so long." Of course, the abuse did not go undetected, it merely went unpunished.
The moves follow harsh criticism of the organization charged with overseeing all U.S. Olympic sports governing bodies from athletes like Aly Raisman, who said the USOC "shamelessly" took credit for a "few USAG resignations" in a statement following those resignations. Raisman challenged the committee to demand wholesale change, and launch it's own investigation—challenges which USOC has now accepted.
When the Indianapolis Star initially broke this story back in August of 2016, the USOC declined to investigate the matter and Blackmun said, from the Summer Olympics in Rio, "We couldn’t possibly investigate allegations of misconduct in 47 different (national governing bodies)." Instead Blackmun touted USOC's "pretty state-of-the-art policy regarding abuse and misconduct" and left the investigating to USAG, which had already overlooked and actively covered up Nassar's abuse—even forcing McKayla Maroney to sign a non-disclosure agreement in her settlement. Blackmun has since said he was unaware of the settlement between Maroney and USAG, and further did not know the full extent of Nassar's abuse.
All of which leads you to wonder, if the USOC does not know what is going on under its own nose, what is its actual purpose? If it could "not possibly investigate" criminal acts committed by those under its umbrella, who can? How "state-of-the-art" is a reporting system that allows "an abuse of this proportion" to go "undetected for so long"? And finally, if this private investigation finds negligence from the USOC, who is responsible for calling for Scott Blackmun's resignation?