Embattled US Olympic Committee (USOC) CEO Scott Blackmun has stepped down following calls for his resignation in the wake of a USA Gymnastics abuse scandal.
Blackmun, who faced stinging criticism for his handling of the case involving team doctor Larry Nassar that rocked the sport, departs after eight years in the role. The 60-year-old administrator had recently disclosed he was battling prostate cancer.
“Given Scott’s current health situation, we have mutually agreed it is in the best interest of both Scott and the USOC that we identify new leadership so that we can immediately address the urgent initiatives ahead of us,” USOC chairman Larry Probst said in a statement on Wednesday.
“The USOC is at a critical point in its history. The important work that Scott started needs to continue and will require especially vigorous attention in light of Larry Nassar’s decades-long abuse of athletes affiliated with USA Gymnastics,” he added.
USOC board member Susanne Lyons is to replace Blackmun as interim chief executive as the hunt for a permanent successor got under way.
Blackmun’s departure comes after he had faced calls to resign for his alleged failure to act swiftly as the Nassar scandal unfolded, claims rejected by committee.
Multiple US senators had demanded his resignation after the Wall Street Journal reported that the committee was made aware of allegations surrounding Nassar in 2015, yet did nothing to intervene.
Probst had initially ruled out any changes in personnel until an investigation ordered by the committee had determined who knew what and when, saying that Blackmun had “served USOC with distinction.”
However, the progress of that investigation was confronted by an immediate roadblock after it emerged last week that several of Nassar’s victims had vowed not to cooperate, citing mistrust of the committee and Blackmun.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Olympic gymnasts, including gold medalists Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney, had said they would opt out of the investigation.
“The athletes don’t want to participate,” a lawyer for the gymnasts told the newspaper. “They don’t trust the USOC, and they don’t trust [Blackmun].”
Raisman, a prominent Blackmun critic, had questioned how committed the committee was to the investigation.
“For 31 months, I heard nothing,” Raisman told the newspaper. “I find it hard to believe after all this time that the USOC is genuinely concerned about anything other than the scrutiny it’s now facing.”
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