The U.S. Olympic Committee has been curiously quiet during sentencing of former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor Larry Nassar. Right as Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison this afternoon for 10 counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct—and after 156 women* gave statements describing Nassar’s years of abuse—the USOC put out a wide-reaching statement detailing its plans for USA Gymnastics. The most important point is that USOC CEO Scott Blackmun is calling on the entire 21-person USAG board to resign; the three members who resigned on Monday will not be enough of a sacrifice:
Since October of last year, we have been engaged in direct talks with USAG leadership on this fundamental point. New leadership at the board level is critical and you recently saw three USAG board resignations. Further changes are necessary to help create a culture that fosters safe sport practice, offers athletes strong resources in education and reporting, and ensures the healing of the victims and survivors. This includes a full turnover of leadership from the past, which means that all current USAG directors must resign.
Blackmun—who was diagnosed with cancer on Monday—also apologized for not sending a USOC representative to the sentencing. Last week, Aly Raisman asked, “Why have I and others here probably not heard anything from the leadership at the USOC? Why has the United States Olympic Committee been silent? Why isn’t the USOC here right now?” Blackmun wrote today that (bolding ours):
The athlete testimony that just concluded in the Nassar hearings framed the tragedy through the eyes of the victims and survivors, and was worse than our own worst fears. It was powerful because of the strength of the victims, survivors and parents, who so eloquently and forcefully told their stories and so rightfully demanded justice. The USOC should have been there to hear it in person, and I am deeply sorry that did not happen.
The purpose of this message is to tell all of Nassar’s victims and survivors, directly, how incredibly sorry we are. 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.
Blackmun and the USOC do have the ultimate weapon to use against USA Gymnastics: decertification as a governing body. That would strip USAG of its ability to crown national champions and, crucially, select teams for international competitions like the Olympics and world championships. The nuclear option was apparently considered, but rejected:
We have strongly considered decertifying USAG as a National Governing Body. But USA Gymnastics includes clubs and athletes who had no hand in this and who need to be supported. We believe it would hurt more than help the athletes and their sport. But we will pursue decertification if USA Gymnastics does not fully embrace the necessary changes in their governance structure along with other mandated changes under review right now.
The letter does not specify what the “necessary changes in their governance structure” or “other mandated changes” are, but says that the USOC will be launching an independent investigation. USA Gymnastics leadership structure will not survive their complicity in Nassar’s abuse; what happens to Michigan State’s arguably equally complicit leadership is unclear, though the NCAA announced last night that it’s investigating.