Sources: DOJ Pursuing Criminal Cases Within Olympic Bodies
The U.S. Justice Department is "pursuing multiple wide-ranging criminal investigations into sexual abuse in U.S. Olympic sports organizations and into potential financial and business misconduct throughout the U.S. Olympic system," according to sources cited by Rebecca Davis O'Brien of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The DOJ's money-laundering and child-exploitation units and the U.S. attorney’s office in DC "sent grand-jury subpoenas earlier this year to a range of entities, including the USOPC and the U.S. Center for SafeSport." Prosecutors from those offices, along with investigators from the IRS, have "spoken with potential witnesses in recent months regarding alleged abuse and misconduct in Olympic sports organizations, including USA Gymnastics and USA Taekwondo." Sources said that investigators are "broadly considering questions" of whether power dynamics at work in the U.S. Olympic system "amount to exploitation." Sources added that investigators are "focused on former executives of USA Gymnastics, USA Taekwondo and other sports governing bodies for their handling of abuse cases and for potentially unethical conduct in the course of their official duties." Separately, sources said that prosecutors in the DOJ's public-integrity unit are "investigating how several FBI offices handled reports" of Larry Nassar's abuse in '15 and '16. The sources added that that investigation, which "grew out of an inquiry by the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office, has focused" on former USAG President & CEO Steve Penny and "his dealings with FBI agents" (WSJ.com, 9/13).
TOP USOPC EXECS TALK FUTURE: The AP's Eddie Pells noted USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland and Chair Susanne Lyons on Thursday "spent ample time ... acknowledging the shortcomings of the USOPC that were exposed by the federation's handling of a series of sex-abuse cases -- how they got there and what they're doing to fix it." The pair delivered their annual address to the USOPC Assembly in front of "about 300 people in a jam-packed conference room." The appearances came prior to news breaking about the DOJ's investigations. The USOPC "recently proposed a number of changes to its bylaws that would add more athletes to the board and give the athletes more say in how they choose their leaders." Hirshland said that the changes are "only one step," and then previewed a "five-year strategic plan to be rolled out by the end of the year." At one point, Lyons said, "We don't have to wait for anyone else to make rules for us. We can best do that for ourselves." Pells noted this "could be viewed as a thinly veiled brushback to Congress, which has proposed a bill that would reset the law that created the USOPC and, among other things, give lawmakers authority to fire Lyons and the rest of the board." Meanwhile, Hirshland addressed the string of sex-abuse scandals, saying, "If our community is going to address the abuse crisis in this country, then we must start by believing those who tell us when it occurs" (AP, 9/12).