Last month, after the disgraced USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) announced that they would be opening an independent investigation "to examine how an abuse of this proportion could have gone undetected for so long," Scott Blackmun, the CEO of the USOC said in a letter.
This independent investigation is something that several survivors, including Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, called for throughout Nassar's sentencing. But yesterday, a lawyer representing Raisman, McKayla Maroney, and other Team USA Gymnasts said that the gymnasts are choosing to opt out of the investigation because they "don't trust the USOC, and they don't trust Blackmun."
According to The Wall Street Journal, upon hearing that the gymnasts didn't want to participate in the investigation, Blackmun personally called a handful of them (including Maggie Nichols and Mattie Larson) and left voicemails, perhaps trying to sway them. But this call from the USOC was too little, too late.
Raisman has been asking for the USOC to acknowledge the more than 150 survivors who came forward for months. In January, she tweeted, "Why don’t [USAG and Team USA] want to know all the factors that contributed to the worst case of sexual abuse in the history of sports?
#INVESTIGATE #WeNeedAnswers." And in her impact statement at Larry Nassar's hearing, she called the organizations out for their inaction. "Why have I and the others here probably not heard anything from the leadership of the USOC?" she said in her impact statement. "Why has the U.S. Olympic Committee been silent? Why isn’t the USOC here right now?"
Raisman told The Journal she is frustrated that it took so long for the USOC to reach out. "For 31 months, I heard nothing," she said. "I find it hard to believe after all this time that the USOC is genuinely concerned about anything other than the scrutiny it’s now facing." Many survivors pointed fingers at the two organizations involved, USA Gymnastics and the USOC, for failing to appropriately report the instances of abuse when they happened, and discouraging those who came forward.
In many ways, Nassar "picked the perfect system to be a predator in," Robert Andrews, MA, LMFT, a sports performance coach who has worked with Olympic gymnasts told Refinery29 last month. The same culture and organization that groomed young gymnasts for success is also one that silenced survivors and enabled an abuser. Clearly, the onus is on the USOC to change how their system is structured to prevent this from happening ever again.
Fortunately, changes are already being made outside the USOC. In 2017, an organization called SafeSport was founded by former Olympians and other experts in order to give athletes within the USOC an outlet to report allegations of sexual assault or misconduct. In addition to providing resources for athletes, SafeSport also developed a code of conduct that anyone employed by an Olympic governing body has to follow. Their role as an organization independent of USA Gymnastics and the USOC is more important now than ever.
A spokesperson for the USOC told The Journal that they hope "all affected athletes will feel free and encouraged to speak out to the investigator." But Raisman and Maroney have made it clear that they're not going to budge so long as the USOC is involved. And why would they, given how few times the USOC has gone to bat for them?