Olympics-U.S. groups investigated on handling of sex-abuse claims - reportReuters | Updated: 14-09-2019 07:54 IST | Created: 14-09-2019 07:34 IST
The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said on Friday it was cooperating with government inquires after it was reported U.S. agencies were conducting a widespread investigation into U.S. Olympic sport organizations. The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the investigations, reported U.S. Justice Department is pursuing multiple wide-criminal investigations into sexual abuse in U.S. Olympic sports organizations and into potential financial and business misconduct throughout the U.S. Olympic system.
The inquiries follow in the wake of the sexual-abuse case against former national gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar and include not only the USOPC but USA Gymnastics, USA Taekwondo, and other organizations, the Journal said. Nassar, 55, was given an effective life sentence by a Michigan court for sexually abusing young female gymnasts entrusted to his care. He is also serving a 60-year sentence for a federal child pornography conviction.
The USOPC declined, in a late afternoon teleconference, to comment on the report beyond reading a prepared statement. "Every instance related to potential or actual abuse of athletes warrants thorough investigation," spokesman Mark Jones said. "We have cooperated with all government inquiries and will continue to do so."
Jones added if there were inquiries on the call, "you will receive the same answer." The Journal reported that federal prosecutors have spoken with potential witnesses about alleged abuse and misconduct in Olympic sports organizations, including USA Gymnastics and USA Taekwondo.
One focus of the investigation appeared to be on failures in the Olympic system to respond to signs of widespread child abuse, the newspaper said. It said prosecutors have already spoken with some witnesses and have received documents from SafeSport in response to a grand jury subpoena.
The U.S. Center for SafeSport is the organization formed in 2017 to handle sex-abuse cases in the Olympic world. The newspaper also reported that USA Gymnastics said in bankruptcy filings that it has been responding to Justice Department subpoenas as recently as April.
In response to the report, U.S. Senators Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., issued a joint statement. "The U.S. Olympic Committee and its affiliated national governing bodies enabled Larry Nassar by turning a blind eye to criminal conduct and then trying to sweep it under the rug.
"Everyone who allowed abuse to continue must be held responsible for any and all violations of the law." USA Gymnastics said it "is striving to become an athlete-centric organization that keeps athlete safety and well-being at the forefront of everything it does."
It added USA Gymnastics has cooperated fully with any governmental investigation and will continue to do so in the future." In a separate statement, USA Taekwondo said: "While we are limited in what we can say while legal proceedings move forward, we want to state clearly that above all else, our top priority at USA Taekwondo is the safety of our athletes."