Immediately after former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to between 40 and 175 years in prison for molesting over 150 young athletes, the United States Olympic Committee issued an apology to Nassar’s many victims whom it, admittedly, “failed.”
“The purpose of this message is to tell all of Nassar’s victims and survivors, directly, how incredibly sorry we are,” read an open letter signed by USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. “We have said it in other contexts, but we have not been direct enough with you. We are sorry for the pain caused by this terrible man, and sorry that you weren’t afforded a safe opportunity to pursue your sports dreams. The Olympic family is among those that have failed you.”
The USOC was one of several institutions that, either knowingly or inadvertently, enabled Nassar to prey on young women and girls. Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney has accused it, along with USA Gymnastics (USAG), of being complicit in the cover-up. Aly Raisman, one of several Olympic gold medalists who testified at the hearing, blasted the USOC both for its role in Nassar’s abuse, and for not showing up to the court to hear Nassar’s victims speak.
Blackmun apologized for not being present at the hearing in Michigan. His letter also promised “an investigation by an independent third party to examine how an abuse of this proportion could have gone undetected for so long. We need to know when complaints were brought forward and to who. This investigation will include both USAG and the USOC, and we believe USAG will cooperate fully. We will make the results public.”
That was one of the letter’s four subheads: “We Must Know Who Knew What and When.” The other three: “1. We Must Change the Culture of the Sport. 2. We Must Change the Governance Structure of the NGB. 4. We Must Support Safe Sport Victims and Survivors.”
Under the first point, Blackmun wrote, “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.”
Blackmun called for all current USAG directors to resign. Three board members already have. Under the second point, he also threatened USAG with decertification, if it “does not fully embrace the necessary changes in their governance structure along with other mandated changes under review right now.”
Blackmun wrote that the testimony “framed the tragedy through the eyes of the victims and survivors, and was worse than our own worst fears.”
And now the USOC must turn those realized fears into action and reform. To do so, it can’t only look to USA Gymnastics. It will probably have to look in the mirror as well.