- Courtesy USOC Bill Baum
Although the U.S. Olympic Committee says the Olympic and Paralympic Games "are uniquely able to bring the world together in celebration of the values of excellence, friendship and respect," those values might have suffered a setback amid allegations the USOC and some governing bodies tolerated sexual assaults, and the media frenzy that's encircled those claims. Consider:
• In June 2017, the Associated Press reported that two brothers under investigation for sexual misconduct were allowed to take part in the Rio Olympics in 2016. The AP cited USA Today's report that said USA Taekwondo began investigating claims against the brothers more than two years prior, in 2015, after multiple women said the brothers sexually assaulted them, but that the probe was halted before the Olympics and the pair were allowed to participate.
• In November, the Chicago Tribune reported that more than 290 coaches and officials in 15 sports associated with America's Olympic sports national governing bodies have been publicly accused of sexual misconduct since 1982. The report cited a Washington Post review of sports' governing body banned lists, news clips, and court records in several states.
• Earlier this year, former USA Gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar was convicted and sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for molesting young girls using the ploy of treatment. Hundreds of his victims lashed out at him during his sentencing hearing.
• On Feb. 28, Olympic gold medal gymnast Aly Raisman filed suit against Nassar and the USOC alleging long-term abuse by Nassar. The lawsuit followed a similar case filed by gymnast Rachael Denhollander against Nassar, Michigan State University (where Nassar worked for decades), and USA Gymnastics.
• Also in February, former Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors told the Huffington Post she was 13 when her coach, Sean Hutchison, began grooming her for a sexual relationship, which started three years later. She says the "extensive, abusive, and incredibly manipulative relationship" continued until she was 24. Hutchison denies the allegations.
• February also saw publication by the Southern California News Group's Orange County Register of a report stating, "USA Swimming ignored or covered up hundreds of sexual abuse cases over the course of decades."
• In March, former figure skater Craig Maurizi told ABC's Good Morning America he filed a complaint in 1999 alleging coach Richard Callaghan sexually abused him a decade earlier, but nothing happened. In January, Maurizi filed a complaint with the U.S. Center for SafeSport, the USOC's misconduct watchdog, after which Callaghan's name was added to U.S. Figure Skating's roster of banned or suspended members in mid-March. Callaghan hasn't commented about the claims. But Maurizi told the network he's retained a California law firm that represents many athletes who accused Nassar of sexual assault.
• Also in March, the same California law firm filed a lawsuit alleging abuse on behalf of a former member of the U.S. National Figure Skating Team against U.S. Figure Skating, former coach Donald Vincent and two ice rinks in the Los Angeles area. Though U.S. Figure Skating denied it has a problem, ABC reported Vincent was convicted in 2014 of abusing two of his students between 2007 and 2011 and is serving 98 years to life in prison. Attorney Vince Finaldi, who represents the accuser, told ABC News, "I think this is the beginning of an eye-opening inquiry."
On Feb. 28, in the midst of the scandal and calls for his resignation from victims, the USOC announced CEO Scott Blackmun had resigned due to medical issues. Replacing him on a temporary basis is board member Susanne Lyons, who in January was chosen to chair the USOC board's working group addressing issues the Nassar case has brought to light.
That effort, the USOC said in a release, will ensure a process that is "independent, transparent, sensitive and accessible." Measures are in the works to better fund support and counseling for gymnasts, impose stronger safeguards against abuse throughout the Olympic community, review the USOC's and national governing bodies' governance structures, and pump up funding to USOC SafeSport in order to hire more investigators and staff so that allegations are reported and investigated.
"The United States Olympic Committee's top priority is to protect, support and empower every athlete in our community," USOC spokesperson Patrick Sandusky says via email. "We're committed to taking action to move forward as a stronger, better organization — one that lives up to the values of the Olympic Movement in every way."