Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 June 2019

US Olympic officials failed to act on Nassar sex abuse claims

Committee officials were told in 2015 about the criminal sex allegations against disgraced doctor

A boulder on the campus of Michigan State University is painted with the names of assault victims of Larry Nassar. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook
A boulder on the campus of Michigan State University is painted with the names of assault victims of Larry Nassar. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

US Olympic Committee (USOC) officials were told in 2015 that an investigation by USA Gymnastics uncovered possible criminal sexual abuse by team doctor Larry Nassar but they failed to intervene, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

USA Gymnastics then-president Steve Penny called Scott Blackmun, the chief executive of the USOC, in July 2015 with a request for guidance on how to handle allegations that Nassar had sexually abused gymnasts, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Nassar plead guilty to sexual assault in a Michigan court and received a sentence of up to 175 years in prison on January 24.

On the call, Mr Penny told Mr Blackmun he planned to alert law enforcement after a gymnast described what appeared to be a sexual assault by Nassar, the newspaper reported.

Mr Blackmun told Mr Penny to “do what he had to do”, but provided no further guidance to USA Gymnastics in the months to come on how to handle the matter, it said.

Mr Blackmun told the Journal that he had urged Mr Penny to turn over the case to law enforcement, and that the USOC’s own upcoming investigation would examine what individuals knew about Nassar and when, the newspaper said.

In response to The Wall Street Journal Story, the USOC reiterated in an email to Reuters it was launching an independent probe “to determine what complaints were made, when, to whom, and what was done in response.” USA Gymnastics did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Many of Nassar’s victims have criticised the USOC for failing to remove him sooner. That has come as part of wider outrage at USA Gymnastics, the sport’s governing body in the United States, and Michigan State University, where Nassar was employed and abused many of his victims.

Under pressure from the USOC, the entire board of USA Gymnastics resigned last week. The president and athletic director at Michigan State University also stepped down.

The Journal said that Mr Penny, who resigned from his post last year, followed up later in 2015 with an email to USOC chief security officer Larry Buendorf that described Nassar’s questionable treatment of three gymnasts and outlined USA Gymnastics’ handling of the matter.

USA Gymnastics has said it contacted the Indianapolis office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on July 27, 2015, which instructed it not to comment on the matter so as not to compromise its investigation, the newspaper said.

Updated: February 2, 2018 01:49 AM