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USOPC costs soar after Nassar abuse case

The U.S. Olympic Committee spent more than $7.5 million in 2018 on expenses that were at least partially related to fallout from the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal, including a $2.4 million severance payment for the organization's former chief executive.

Scott Blackmun stepped down as the USOC's CEO in February 2018, one month after Nassar -- the former national medical coordinator of USA Gymnastics -- was sentenced to 175 years in state prison for abusing his patients.

The organization said at the time that Blackmun was resigning immediately due to health issues resulting from prostate cancer. The $2.4 million severance payment was not disclosed publicly until the organization, which is now called the USOPC to include the Paralympics, released its nonprofit tax information Wednesday morning.

The tax forms also show that the organization paid the Ropes & Gray law firm $5.2 million to investigate the USOC's handling of complaints about sexual misconduct and Nassar.

Ropes & Gray released a report that said Blackmun initially told investigators he took proactive steps when he first heard of complaints about Nassar in 2015. When pressed for specifics, investigators say Blackmun acknowledged he chose to let USA Gymnastics officials handle Nassar complaints rather than get involved. The report found that when USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny first emailed Blackmun to alert him to complaints about Nassar, Blackmun deleted the email.

The USOPC's board chair, Susanne Lyons, released a statement Wednesday that said: "In 2018 USOPC board of directors approved a separation agreement including severance for former CEO Scott Blackmun. At that time, based on the requirement for new leadership to guide the organization forward, as well as Blackmun's serious health challenges, the board approved a separation agreement, as provided for in his contract."

Many of the women who say they were sexually abused by Nassar have sued the USOPC, among other parties, in civil court.

Attorney John Manly, who represents dozens of the women in those lawsuits, said the multimillion dollar severance payment is a sign of the organization's misplaced priorities.

"The payment of millions by the USOC to Mr. Blackmun, who was one of Larry Nassar's primary enablers, should be the final nail in the USOC's coffin," Manly told ESPN. "My clients and I call on Congress to act to de-charter USOC, which has utterly failed at its most basic duty: namely to protect the health and safety of America's athletes."

The severance payment and the payment to Ropes & Gray contributed to the administrative expenses of the USOPC more than doubling -- from $14.9 million in 2017 to $31.2 million in 2018. The organization reported $323 million in revenue during 2018, which is an increase of $51 million from 2014 -- the most recent previous year in which the Winter Olympics were held.

Current USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland said Wednesday that the organization made strides to support athletes and institutes reforms during 2018.

"The USOPC is currently providing more resources to athletes, [national governing bodies] and sport programming than at any point in our organization's history," Hirshland said in a statement. "We've also instituted critical reforms that have helped to begin to regain the support of the public, our donors and partners, and that is reflected in the strength of our financial statements."