Gymnastics champ Raisman lambastes Olympic Committee over abuse scandal
As Nassar continues to face his accusers at a sentencing hearing in Michigan, Raisman addressed the resignation of three top executives from the USA Gymnastics (USAG) board of directors as well as comments from US Olympic Committee (USOC) president Scott Blackmun.
“The USOC released a statement shamelessly taking credit for a few USAG resignations [note: not fired] as though they’re addressing the problem,” tweeted the six-time Olympic medallist on Monday, renewing her calls for an independent investigation into USAG.
“They are still not acknowledging their own role in this mess. ZERO accountability! It’s like none of us were ever abused!”
Raisman hit out in particular at Blackmun’s comment that “USA Gymnastics needs to focus on supporting the brave survivors”, saying it was too little, too late.
“Was the USOC there to ‘focus on the brave survivors’? No,” she wrote. “Did they issue any statement then? Crickets.”
Chairperson Paul Parilla, vice-chairperson Jay Binder and treasurer Bitsy Kelley stepped down from the USAG board of directors after stinging criticism of how the governing body handled the case by Nassar’s accusers, who include Rio Olympics superstar Simone Biles.
Blackmun said the USOC had been in talks with USAG, pushing for change since last October.
Nassar, 54, has pleaded guilty to 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct and faces life in prison.
He is scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday on seven of the counts, with a separate sentence on the final three charges to be handed down at the end of the month.
Nassar has already been sentenced to 60 years in prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges.
The presiding judge at Nassar’s sentencing hearing has received approximately 158 victim statements, according to prosecutors. The list of people asking to speak tripled since the hearing began a week ago.
One of them, Alison Chauvette, said on Tuesday that Nassar’s abusive behaviour was so brazen, common and unchecked that she and fellow gymnasts discussed his strange treatments and simply assumed they must be legitimate.
“We young girls were fooled, but the world should not have been. USAG, Michigan State University and society all failed to keep us safe,” she said.
Like Raisman, many victims have criticised not just Nassar’s actions, but the inaction of Olympics and gymnastics officials, as well as Nassar’s employer, Michigan State University.
Mattie Larson, a decorated former member of the US national team, called on lawmakers to pass a new bill that would require amateur athletics organisations to report allegations of sexual misconduct.
“I was shocked to learn that this law did not already exist,” Larson said, calling on Speaker of the House Paul Ryan to schedule a vote for the bill that has already cleared the US Senate.
“We must ensure that legal steps are made to prevent anything of this nature and magnitude from happening again,” she said.
Raisman, who won Olympic team gold in 2012 and 2016, as well as the 2012 floor exercise crown, noted that the first allegations against Nassar came ahead of the Rio Olympics.
“Survivors courageously came forward, sharing stories of sexual abuse and alleging organisational mishandling,” Raisman wrote. “The next day, the USOC said they wouldn’t investigate (and even praised USAG’s work in the area of sexual abuse).”
Raisman said the executive exits should be just the beginning of major changes at USAG – without which more gymnasts would remain at risk.
“These, and any other changes, won’t matter until we know exactly what happened. Suggesting otherwise is dangerous to athletes,” she said.