USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland since taking on the role in September "talks freely and comfortably about the USOC’s struggles," and she "won’t dodge questions about an organization battered by the scandal of Larry Nassar," according to a front-page piece by David Ramsey of the Colorado Springs GAZETTE. Hirshland is an "optimistic realist" and she "understands the troubles but is convinced the movement has learned harsh yet valuable lessons." Below are excerpts of a Q&A with Hirshland, some of which have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: Do Olympic athletes need more of a voice in the USOC? Do you understand the discontent of Olympic athletes?
Hirshland: One hundred percent, yes. I understand it, and I agree. In order for us to be successful, we have to have a significant community of athletes who want to have a point of view on the administrative side of what we do and who want to understand procedures more. ... We exist to serve the athlete community, and we have to understand their needs. And if they’re not participating actively in that process and we’re not hearing them, then we cannot possibly be successful.
Q: Nassar still hovers over the movement. How do you lessen his future impact?
Hirshland: There is a hugely substantive set of conversations happening all over the movement as a result of the realization that he was enabled and allowed to exist in this community for as long as he did. That has sparked conversations at every level ... about standards of care from a medical perspective, about grooming and the behaviors around sexual misconduct and assault and about broadly a culture of abuse that includes emotional and physical abuse. The level of awareness today is off the charts relative to what it was two years ago. You can describe that as Larry Nassar and a dark cloud over the movement, or you can look at it as progress. I choose to look at it as progress because the conversations need to happen if we’re going to work our way through it.
Q: Are you confident the USOC can face lawsuits associated with the Nassar scandal and emerge financially viable?
Hirshland: I have no concerns about the long-term financial viability of the organization. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have some work to do to get through the process. If there is one thing that I am least excited about, it is the practical realities of that process and the time it will take (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 5/8).