The former chief of the United States Olympic Committee was informed of abuse allegations against former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar in 2015 but took no action until the scandal erupted into public view more than a year later, a damning official report said Monday.
A 233-page report issued after an exhaustive investigation into the scandal accused former USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun, and current USOC chief of sports performance Alan Ashley, of inaction after first being told of abuse allegations against Nassar in July 2015.
The independent report, carried out by Boston law firm Ropes & Gray, painted a withering picture of a systemic failure which allowed Nassar to abuse hundreds of athletes.
Nassar was jailed for life earlier this year for the abuse of more than 250 athletes, including several stars of the United States’ gold medal-winning teams at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.
“While Nassar bears ultimate responsibility for his decades-long abuse of girls and young women, he did not operate in a vacuum,” an executive summary of the report said.
“Instead, he acted within an ecosystem that facilitated his criminal acts.”
The United States Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics, coaches, trainers and medical professionals all shared blame for allowing Nassar to carry out his crimes, the report said.
“These institutions and individuals ignored red flags, failed to recognize textbook grooming behaviors, or in some egregious instances, dismissed clear calls for help from girls and young women who were being abused by Nassar,” the summary said.
The summary said Nassar’s abuse was a “manifestation of the broader failures at USAG and the USOC to adopt appropriate child-protective policies and procedures to ensure a culture of safety for young athletes”.
The report’s lead investigators Joan McPhee and James P. Dowden said former USOC chief Blackmun, who resigned in February, and Ashley were first alerted by former USA Gymnastics chief Steve Penny in July 2015 that Nassar was to be reported to law enforcement.
However neither Blackmun nor Ashley shared the information with other members of USOC’s board or directors or USOC’s SafeSport team.
The report said Blackmun and former USA Gymnastics boss Penny had both “engaged in affirmative efforts to protect and preserve their institutional interests ?- even as Nassar retired from the sport with his reputation intact and continued to have access to girls and young women at the college, club and high school levels”.
Blackmun meanwhile insisted to investigators he had “initiated an internal effort at the USOC to alert his SafeSport team to the allegations and to confirm that the USOC was taking all appropriate steps to respond to the allegations and ensure athlete safety”.
However investigators concluded “no such conversations were had and no such steps were taken”.
The investigation, which had been commissioned by USOC, included more than 100 interviews, many of them with current and former USA Gymnastics and US Olympic Committee employees over a 10-month period.
Investigators reviewed more than 1.3 million documents as part of their probe, which covers allegations dating back to the early 1990s.