Senate wants investigation into USOC leader
Two lawmakers are asking the Justice Department and FBI to look into whether former U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun lied to a Senate panel in testimony about the handling of sex-abuse allegations against Larry Nassar.
At issue is Blackmun’s debunked claim that he discussed the case with USOC staff after receiving word of Nassar’s potential crimes from the USA Gymnastics president at the time, Steve Penny. Blackmun first offered that information in written testimony to a Senate subcommittee in June.
A report from the Ropes and Gray law firm released earlier this week concluded that nobody on the USOC staff could corroborate Blackmun’s account of a meeting. Blackmun also told the investigators there had been a meeting, but later changed his story upon hearing there was no corroboration.
Ropes and Gray concluded Blackmun didn’t inform anyone at the USOC about Nassar upon hearing from Penny, and that there was a 14-month gap between Blackmun’s initial contact with Penny and the time Nassar’s crimes became public.
Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas and Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, who are on the subcommittee holding hearings into the sex-abuse scandal, said they were turning over the information regarding Blackmun’s testimony to acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker and FBI director Christopher Wray.
“The Subcommittee takes its oversight role seriously, and it appears that Mr. Blackmun has made false claims and misled our Subcommittee — harming the investigation and ability to develop policy,” the Senators said in a statement. “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.”
Blackmun did not immediately return requests for comment from The Associated Press.
The executive stepped down from his post in February while battling an advanced form of prostate cancer.
USOC chairman Larry Probst had vigorously defended Blackmun before he stepped down. In the Ropes and Gray report, Probst and board member Susanne Lyons, who took over as acting CEO after Blackmun’s departure, are portrayed as being unaware of the Nassar allegations until they surfaced in news reports, more than a year after Penny contacted Blackmun.
Nassar is serving decades in prison on charges of child pornography and for molesting young women and girls under the guise of medical treatment; many of his accusers — gymnasts for the U.S. team and at Michigan State — testified in searing detail at his sentencing hearing in January
Probst, who on Friday oversaw his final board meeting before stepping down, said he hadn’t seen the senators’ letter to the DOJ and couldn’t offer comment on Blackmun’s testimony.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to speculate on what Scott was thinking or not thinking,” Probst said.
Blackmun told Ropes and Gray that when he took over as CEO in 2010 “if someone said what are the top 15 priorities for the USOC, I wouldn’t have had sex abuse on the list.”
He took over around the time USA Swimming was dealing with multiple allegations of sex abuse. Over the decades, the USOC had dealt with a myriad of sex-abuse issues, including receiving a letter from USA Gymnastics president Bob Colarossi in 1999 urging the USOC to take bold action, lest it be “forced to deal with the problem under much more difficult circumstances.”
Asked if it was plausible that the sex-abuse issue could be that far off the radar in 2010, Probst responded: “The board was aware of historical issues, and … SafeSport was discussed at 28 consecutive board meetings. It was something the board was focused on.”