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U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Steps Down

Mar 1, 2018
Originally published on March 1, 2018 6:20 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The head of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Scott Blackmun, has resigned. The Olympic Committee says Blackmun is leaving because of cancer treatments. But as Alexandra Starr reports, his departure follows a series of sexual abuse scandals in Olympic sports.

ALEXANDRA STARR, BYLINE: Bridie Farrell is a former Olympic-caliber speed skater. In 2013, she came forward to say that 15 years earlier, when she was a teenager, she had been molested by Andy Gabel. He'd won a silver medal in her sport, and he was 33 years old when the abuse happened. After Farrell went public, the head of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Scott Blackmun, met with her. He asked that if anyone came to Farrell with their own story of abuse that they go to him.

BRIDIE FARRELL: Let's not go to the media. Let's not make a scene. Let's keep this problem in-house.

STARR: Farrell thought that would lead to any additional complaints being buried. It was a pattern she'd seen at the USOC.

FARRELL: And I can recall looking to Scott and saying, Scott, I do not trust you.

STARR: A spokesperson at the USOC declined to comment. He referred to a statement pointing to Blackmun's poor health as the reason for his departure. His retirement does coincide with one of the biggest sex abuse scandals in sports history. Larry Nassar, the former team doctor for USA Gymnastics, was convicted earlier this year of molesting more than 265 girls and women.

NANCY HOGSHEAD-MAKAR: It wasn't until you had Larry Nassar that the whole issue blew up.

STARR: That's Nancy Hogshead-Makar. She's a former gold medalist in swimming who now advocates on behalf of girls in sport. She has been critical of how Blackmun handled sex abuse cases, but she's hopeful things are changing. Last year, the USOC created a new entity, U.S. SafeSport, that has taken over investigating sexual misconduct. The U.S. Congress just passed a bill authorizing the organization.

For NPR News, I'm Alexandra Starr.

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