PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Facing mounting criticism over the sex abuse scandal that has already led to sweeping changes at USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee offered an unwavering defense of its CEO at a news conference Friday in PyeongChang and said it would make no leadership changes until the conclusion of an independent investigation.
The scandal, in which more than 260 women say they were sexually abused by Larry Nassar, a former team physician, has already prompted a housecleaning at USA Gymnastics, and many quickly cast their eye at the USOC. The organization has said it was alerted in 2015 of a physician potentially having abused an athlete and the information was reported to the FBI. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) have since called on Scott Blackmun, the USOC’s CEO, to resign.
“He has served the USOC with distinction since he rejoined the organization in 2010,” Larry Probst, the chair of the USOC board, told reporters Friday. “We think that he did what he was supposed to do and he did the right thing at every turn.”
Blackmun is not in PyeongChang. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer and is back in the United States, recovering from surgery. That left other members of the USOC leadership to address questions about how the organization handled the controversy.
The USOC last week commissioned an independent investigation “that will help us understand who knew what about Nassar’s abuse, when and what they did with that information,” Probst said.
“We will take appropriate action based on the findings of that independent investigation,” he said.
But even as they say they’ll await those results, USOC leaders said Blackmun has the support of the USOC board.
“To this point he’s done a phenomenal job,” said Angela Ruggiero, a USOC board member.
“I’ve known him for a very long time . . . and he has done a great job for us,” added Anita DeFrantz, another longtime board member, “and I think he deserves to have everything cleared before we take any action. I don’t know what the investigation will show, but I’m pretty confident it will show he did a great job.”
Probst read a statement apologizing to the victims, saying “the Olympic system failed you.” Reporters peppered USOC leadership with questions about the scandal, asking whether anyone at the USOC should be held accountable.
“We are far from unscathed,” Probst said. “There’s been a tremendous amount of criticism about the USOC. We think that we did what we were supposed to do. Could we have done more? Of course, we could always do more.”
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