Friday 22 June 2018

USOC chief resigns to undergo cancer treatment after calls for his replacement

US Olympic Committee (USOC) chief executive Scott Blackmun has resigned so he can tackle prostate cancer and allow new leadership to address the sex-abuse scandal that has rocked gymnastics and other sports.The 60-year-old chief executive was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January and did not attend the Pyeongchang Games.Mr Blackmun left as calls for his …

Scott Blackmun (AP/Lee Jin-man)
Scott Blackmun (AP/Lee Jin-man)

By Eddie Pells, Associated Press

US Olympic Committee (USOC) chief executive Scott Blackmun has resigned so he can tackle prostate cancer and allow new leadership to address the sex-abuse scandal that has rocked gymnastics and other sports.

The 60-year-old chief executive was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January and did not attend the Pyeongchang Games.

Mr Blackmun left as calls for his ouster were growing louder — from two US senators and, more notably, from a number of gymnasts and other athletes.

They said neither he nor the USOC at large reacted properly to cases including those involving Larry Nassar, the doctor who sexually abused members of the US gymnastics team.

The USOC is conducting an independent review of when Mr Blackmun and others learned the details about abuse cases at USA Gymnastics and whether they responded appropriately.

Susanne Lyons, a member of the board, will step down from that position and serve as acting chief executive while the search for Mr Blackmun’s replacement begins.

At a news conference to kick off the Olympics, chairman Larry Probst said Mr Blackmun had served the USOC with distinction and the board found no reason to relieve him.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, Mr Probst said Blackmun has since received more information about the treatment he will need.

“We need a CEO in place who can (tend) to this current situation and work hard to get things back on a positive track,” Mr Probst said.

The USOC said it was starting several initiatives, including providing new funding and resources for Nassar’s victims and others in Olympic sports who have been subject to abuse; sex-abuse cases in swimming, taekwondo and speedskating have also occurred during Mr Blackmun’s tenure.

The USOC also will review its relationships with national governing bodies of Olympic sports and double funding to the US Centre for SafeSport.

John Manly, an attorney representing Nassar’s victims in a lawsuit that seeks monetary damages and court oversight of USA Gymnastics, said it was victims speaking out about the USOC that forced Mr Blackmun to resign.

“USOC has focused nearly all its efforts on money and medals while the safety of our athletes has taken a back seat,” Mr Manly said.

Mr Blackmun’s last several years at the helm of USOC have focused on establishing the SafeSport organisation, which formed to compel all Olympic sports organisations to use the same rules for reporting and handling abuse cases.

It was a herculean task that involved raising millions of dollars to start an entity independent of the USOC that could police abuse cases in a similar manner as the US Anti-Doping Agency runs the anti-doping system in the United States.

But most of the cases in question occurred before the new protocols came into play.

The shocking testimony in January from dozens of gymnasts who were abused by Nassar led to calls for a complete turnover of the USA Gymnastics board, and then for Mr Blackmun’s removal.

“The US Olympic Committee must now bring on new leadership determined to deliver answers and accountability regarding how Larry Nassar was able to freely abuse young girls for decades, as well as answers to questions about abuse in other Olympic programs,” said Democratic US Senator Jeanne Shaheen.

Press Association

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