USOC chief of sport performance Alan Ashley rightly fired after staying silent in Nassar case
The Ropes & Gray report on the Larry Nassar scandal is now out, and the story it tells about two of the nation’s top international sports leaders is devastating.
Former U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun, who resigned in February, appallingly failed to stop Nassar from molesting dozens of girls and young women for 13½ months after being told about Nassar’s abuse.
Current USOC chief of sport performance Alan Ashley, one of the highest-profile U.S. officials during every Olympics, joined Blackmun in doing nothing to stop Nassar for all those weeks and months, according to the report.
For his deplorable inaction, Ashley was appropriately fired Monday morning by new USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland, who replaced Blackmun in August. Hirshland dismissed Ashley after she was made aware of the contents of the Ropes & Gray report.
Her swift and strong action was not only the right thing to do, it also was the only thing to do. Ashley had to go, and he had to go immediately.
Blackmun and Ashley, two mainstays of the U.S. Olympic movement since 2010, now will forever be known for their atrocious decision to remain silent as Nassar continued to molest young gymnasts from July 25, 2015, when they were told about Nassar by USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny, to Sept. 12, 2016, when Nassar’s abuse was made public in an Indianapolis Star report.
Their once-illustrious careers are now cloaked in disgrace. They knew an alleged sexual predator was preying on girls and young women in the Olympic movement and did nothing to stop him. They failed miserably at their most important task: protecting America’s athletes.
“The USOC as an organization was effectively disabled from considering and taking appropriate action in response to the athlete complaints about Nassar due to the decision by two senior officers of the USOC to keep the matter to themselves,” according to the 233-page report.
Those two senior officers were Blackmun and Ashley, according to the investigation.
Early in the morning of Saturday, July 25, 2015, after already deciding to report Nassar to the FBI, Penny spoke with Ashley “to inform him of certain information concerning sexual misconduct and to request that he arrange a conference call with Mr. Blackmun for later that day so the three of them could discuss the matter,” according to the report, which was read by USA TODAY before it was made public Monday afternoon.
Ashley then sent Blackmun an email telling him that he had a “long call” with Penny “regarding a safe sport issue he is pursuing,” adding that Penny “is pretty distraught and is looking for some help” and would like to “get on the phone with the two of us to talk through his challenges and get advice.”
According to the report, “While Mr. Ashley acknowledged knowing USAG planned to refer the matter to law enforcement, and understood that the allegations related to a SafeSport issue involving a ‘minor’ and an ‘adult,’ neither Mr. Blackmun nor Mr. Ashley disclosed either the sexual abuse allegations or the USAG referral to law enforcement to any other person at the USOC.”
Damningly, the report said: “There is no evidence that either Mr. Blackmun or Mr. Ashley initiated any USOC internal review of the Nassar matter in the summer or fall of 2015, or at any time prior to the public exposure of Nassar’s crimes in September 2016.”
How many girls and young women would have been saved from being sexually assaulted had Blackmun and/or Ashley immediately called the FBI or other law enforcement officials to tell them about Nassar and demand action to stop him?
What if Blackmun and/or Ashley had summoned their senior leadership team to tell them about what had happened? Certainly that would have resulted in someone, somewhere, calling for instant action on behalf of the gymnasts.
What if they had called a news conference or sent out an alert to warn all girls and young women in gymnastics, and the parents of gymnasts, to avoid Nassar at all costs?
What if they had done something — anything — rather than nothing at all?
This is the legacy of Scott Blackmun and Alan Ashley. Shame on them.
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