USOC fires official over his silence in Larry Nassar case

The U.S. Olympic Committee fired its chief of sport performance Monday, immediately after publishing an investigation that found major issues with how the organization responded to specific sexual assault allegations made against disgraced doctor Larry Nassar and the environment that its governance structure created for reporting sexual abuse in general.

Alan Ashley served as one of the USOC's top officials for eight years prior to being fired Monday morning. Ashley and former CEO Scott Blackmun failed to take any meaningful action in the summer of 2015 when they were made aware of accusations that Nassar was abusing gymnasts through his position as the USA Gymnastics national medical coordinator, according to the findings of a review commissioned by the USOC.

The review found that Ashley and Blackmun both deleted the lone email they received from former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny about the allegations made against Nassar.

Nassar stopped working at USA Gymnastics-approved events in August 2015 but was allowed to say he was retiring despite an ongoing FBI investigation. Leaders at USA Gymnastics and the USOC did not tell Nassar's employer -- Michigan State -- or any of the other entities that provided him access to girls and young women about the reason for his departure.

Nassar continued to see patients for another 14 months before he was fired from Michigan State and arrested on charges of sexual misconduct that resulted in a prison sentence of up to 175 years. Ashley, Blackmun and Penny, according to review released to the public Monday, "maintained secrecy regarding the Nassar allegations and focused on controlling the flow of information about his alleged misconduct."

"USAG's and the USOC's inaction and concealment had consequences," said the report, which was completed by the Ropes & Gray law firm. "Dozens of girls and young women were abused during the yearlong period between the summer of 2015 and September 2016."

Blackmun resigned from his post as the USOC's leader in February, citing issues with his health. Penny resigned from USA Gymnastics in March 2017. He was arrested earlier this year on charges of evidence tampering connected to the Nassar case.

The Ropes & Gray report said a confluence of factors "from casual disregard to affirmative inaction, from cultural conditions to governance choices, from inadequate policies and procedures to the risk of sexual abuse in sport" created an environment in which Nassar and other sexual predators flourished. The findings indicated that the USOC's hands-off approach to patrolling the national governing bodies it oversees created a culture in which other priorities took precedence over athletes' needs and their input.

The sexual abuse reporting policies used by USA Gymnastics specifically did not protect athletes from retribution for raising concerns and made the reporting process "convoluted and detrimental" at times, according to Ropes & Gray. The report said USA Gymnastics demonstrated a pattern of declining to respond adequately to complaints of sexual abuse in the years leading up to the revelations about Nassar.

The USOC and USA Gymnastics are both defendants in more than 100 civil lawsuits filed by women who say those organizations did not uphold their duty to protect women and girls from Nassar's abuse. The USOC, under new leadership, took an initial step to decertify USA Gymnastics last month. USA Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy last week in a move that puts all proceedings for those lawsuits on hold indefinitely.