Ropes & Gray Report Released

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The final report of the independent investigation, commissioned by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), that looked into the sex abuse scandal involving Larry Nassar was released yesterday.

The report was commissioned by the USOC and investigators reviewed 1.3 million documents that included reports, files, emails, notes and text messages and interviewed over 100 former USA Gymnastics (USAG) and USOC employees, current & former athletes, Michigan State and law enforcement.

Below are some highlights directly from the Executive Summary;

  • Numerous institutions and individuals enabled his abuse and failed to stop him, including coaches at the club and elite level, trainers and medical professionals, administrators and coaches at Michigan State University (“MSU”), and officials at both United States of America Gymnastics (“USAG”) and the United States Olympic Committee (the “USOC”).
  • Multiple law enforcement agencies, in turn, failed effectively to intervene when presented with opportunities to do so.
  • …there were embedded cultural norms unique to elite gymnastics that eroded normal impediments to abuse while at the same time reducing the likelihood that survivors would come forward. The culture was intense, severe and unrelenting. It demanded obedience and deference to authority. It normalized intense physical discomfort as an integral part of the path to success.
  • …the USOC and USAG did not keep pace with best practices being adopted by other youth-serving organizations. Instead, they made decisions regarding appropriate roles and responsibilities for their respective organizations that did not embrace a child-first approach and led to stark failures in implementing effective measures to protect athletes from sexual and other forms of abuse.
  • Nassar’s ability to abuse athletes for nearly three decades is a manifestation of the broader failures at USAG and the USOC to adopt appropriate child-protective policies and procedures to ensure a culture of safety for young athletes.
  • The USOC did not have specific processes in place during the period of Nassar’s abuse that were sufficient to protect athletes from sexual abuse.
  • …the USOC exerted its broad statutory authority and monetary influence over individual sports primarily for the purpose of encouraging success at the Olympic Games, effectively outsourcing any decisions regarding on-the-ground child-protective practices to the NGBs.
  • The USOC, despite having been directly informed by NGBs of the threat of sexual misconduct in elite sports, failed to address the risk until 2010, and then failed to take effective action for many years, permitting NGBs to continue adhering to inadequate and harmful policies and practices.
  • USAG’s actions in response to allegations against former coaches Marvin Sharp, Bill McCabe and Doug Boger highlight how in the years leading up to the revelation of Nassar’s abuse, the organization ignored credible reports of abuse, and instead required the complaining party to comply with numerous procedural requirements that operated to block or delay effective action.
  • The USOC’s and USAG’s failure to exercise appropriate oversight to protect athletes from sexual abuse is perhaps best exemplified by the conditions and lack of oversight at the Karolyi Ranch.
  • …the USOC and USAG brands, as well as that of the Karolyi training program, no institution or individual took any meaningful steps to ensure that appropriate safety measures were in place to protect the young
    gymnasts.
  • The actions of these organizations, their CEOs and other senior personnel reveal that, apart from USAG’s referral to law enforcement in the summer of 2015 and again in the spring of 2016, USAG and the USOC took no meaningful steps to protect athletes from the danger presented by Nassar.
  • …USAG’s then-CEO, Steve Penny, directed an immediate effort to urgently retrieve all medical forms and all documents that pertained to Nassar.
  • Specifically, after Mr. Penny advised Mr. Blackmun [former USOC CEO] that USAG had received disturbing allegations about the gymnastics team doctor, Mr. Blackmun did not inform anyone else at the USOC of the allegations, including any member of the USOC Board of Directors or any member of the USOC SafeSport team.
  • Nor did he [Blackmun] alert other youth-serving organizations with which Nassar was affiliated to the ongoing risk of harm.

“[the report]…details Penny’s efforts to enlist the FBI and local Indiana police to provide cover for the Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics handling of Nassar and other sex abuse cases, and how a USA Gymnastics cover-up and inaction by two FBI offices allowed Nassar to abuse perhaps dozens of young athletes in the final 16 months before his misconduct became public.”

“Not only had Mr. Penny kept the vast majority of USAG personnel in the dark about Nassar’s alleged misconduct, but the organization also failed to implement any systematic child-protective measures to ensure that Nassar would be stopped from further abusing athletes while under investigation for serial sexual abuse,” the report said.

“As a result, Nassar not only remained on USAG’s list of recommended physicians on the organization’s public website, but he also continued to see patients and pursue other opportunities following his departure from USAG.”

In an email to USA Gymnastics chief operating officer Ron Galimore and chief administrative officer Mark McCreary, Rachel Brazo, USA Gymnastics director of program administration wrote, “I feel like I have indirectly been put in a position where I may have recommended that a parent put their child in harm’s way because staff weren’t made aware of allegations.”

The following individuals refused to be interviewed for the Ropes & Gray investigation;

  • Former US Olympic and national team coaches Bela & Martha Karolyi
  • Former USA Gymnastics employees Deborah Van Horn & Gary Warren
  • USA Gymnastics attorneys Scott Himsel &Jack Swarbrick
  • Notre Dame athletic director
  • Former FBI special agent W. Jay Abbott
  • Former USOC CEO Scott Blackmun
  • Former USA Gymnastics chief executive officer Steve Penny Penny

USA Gymnastics released the following statement the day the Ropes & Gray report was published;

To our USA Gymnastics membership and community: 

Today, Ropes & Gray, the independent investigating body examining the decades-long abuse by Larry Nassar, released its report based on its investigation. 

We are indebted to the brave women who came forward and have made our sport safer by speaking out against the horrific acts of Larry Nassar. USA Gymnastics is one of the organizations that let them down, and we are working to regain their trust and that of the entire gymnastics community. 

Throughout the investigation, USA Gymnastics fully cooperated with Ropes & Gray. Once we comprehensively review and understand the findings of the Ropes & Gray report, we will provide an update to all members. USA Gymnastics and the gymnastics community have made meaningful changes to help ensure athlete safety and well-being, and we may suggest more changes depending on the learnings from the report. 

The one thing that has been clear throughout the process is the shared commitment of our members to foster a safe, positive and encouraging environment where young people can learn gymnastics and life skills to compete and pursue their dreams. 

Thank you again for your commitment and support. 

USA Gymnastics Board of Directors

You can read the complete Executive Summary and full Report below;

Ropes and Gray Executive Summary

Ropes and Gray Full Report

The full report is broken down into 5 parts;

  • Part 1 – Contains a detailed overview of Nassar’s criminal career
  • Part 2 – Discusses Nassar’s grooming tactics, facade he created, and how he normalized and covered up his abusive behavior
  • Part 3 – Reveals who knew what & when and what was and not done in response to Nassar’s actions
  • Part 4 – Digs into the culture of Elite gymnastics and Olympic sports
  • Part 5 – Reviews Olympic governance structure and factors that lead to Nassar abuse

Source: nassarinvestigation.com, ocregister.com, Ropes & Gray Report

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