A new report from theWall Street Journal claims the United States Olympic Committee failed to act against Larry Nassar when it was first notified of allegations of sexual assault levied against the former Team USA Gymnastics doctor. According to the Journal, the committee was first notified that USA Gymnastics had uncovered evidence Nassar might have engaged in potentially criminal behavior in 2015, but opted not to intervene or investigate for themselves, allowing Nassar to continue seeing patients.
While Nassar is likely going to spend the rest of his life behind bars for sexually abusing a number of young women, many of his victims and their supporters argue he's not the only person who needs to be held accountable for the abuse. Hundreds of women and girls have come forward to accuse Nassar of sexually assaulting them, including former Olympic gymnasts Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, and Jordyn Wieber. A number of them have also criticized both the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics of turning a blind eye and enabling Nassar's abuse.
Communications from 2015 show the committee opted not to intervene in USA Gymnastics' handling of the situation after being notified it had found evidence of "possible criminal behavior" by Nassar, according to the Journal. The committee previously offered seemingly conflicting accounts about when they were first alerted to the allegations against Nassar. At first, the organization said it learned of Nassar's alleged abuse via a September 2016 article in the Indianapolis Star. Later, it claimed it'd known about the allegations since summer 2015 and had "followed proper procedures" after being notified of them.
Now, the Journal reports that when Steve Penny, then president of USA Gymnastics, called the U.S. Olympic Committee's chief executive, Scott Blackmun, in July 2015 to ask for help in dealing with an internal investigation, Blackmun offered little guidance beyond "do what [you have] to do." Three months later, Penny reportedly emailed Larry Buendorf, the committee's chief security officer, about detailed allegations of sexual assault levied against Nassar.
Nassar pleaded guilty to molesting seven underage girls late last year and was sentenced to between 40 and 175 years in prison last month, after more than 150 women testified about having been abused by him during his sentencing hearing. Among those women, Raisman gave a powerful statement that went viral on social media, and was reprinted in full the following day by The New York Times.
Raisman also released a strongly worded statement impugning the U.S. Olympic Committee last week, laying into the organization and calling for "new board leadership" after three members of its board of directors announced their resignations. The former USA Gymnastics team captain in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, Raisman has been sharply critical of the committee for failing to stop Nassar's crimes during his years-long tenure as an Olympic team doctor.
"For the past week, survivors came forward to courageously face a perpetrator of evil and to share their painful stories," Raisman said in a statement posted to Twitter on Jan. 22. "Many of them, myself included, claim the USOC is also at fault. Was the USOC there to 'focus on supporting the brave survivors'? No. Did they issue any statement then? Crickets ..."
Needless to say, the Wall Street Journal's recent reporting is likely to place even more scrutiny on the role of the U.S. Olympic Committee in the Nassar affair. The news that knowledge of Nassar's abuse reportedly went ignored by some committee executives dropped with a seismic impact on Thursday, and with a pending investigation yet to come, there's no telling just how much more information could come to light.
Chris Tognotti contributed to this report.