Gymnastics: Top US official Scott Blackmun quits in fallout from Nassar case

Scott Blackmun faced growing pressure over the US Olympic Committee's handling of the Larry Nassar revelations.
Scott Blackmun faced growing pressure over the US Olympic Committee's handling of the Larry Nassar revelations.

DENVER (Colorado) • The fallout of the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal has been far-reaching, with criminal complaints, civil lawsuits, and the resignation of the entire USA Gymnastics board and senior Michigan State University (MSU) staff.

On Wednesday, US Olympic Committee (Usoc) chief executive Scott Blackmun stepped down as the latest official to fall under pressure from the ongoing case which has seen 265 victims, including several Olympic gold medallists, accuse the former USA Gymnastics and MSU team doctor of abuse.

Nassar is serving a 60-year federal prison sentence for child pornography convictions and an additional 40 to 175 years for multiple sex crimes.

Usoc said Blackmun, whose 2016 salary totalled US$1.075 million (S$1.43 million), was resigning for medical reasons due to "ongoing health issues" related to prostate cancer that tests in January revealed.

"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," chairman Larry Probst said in the statement.

Usoc board member Susanne Lyons will serve as the acting CEO while the organisation searches for a permanent replacement.

Blackmun, who became CEO in 2010, was highly regarded and viewed as a stabilising force in the Usoc. But the 60-year-old had also been under concerted pressure to resign with the committee's handling of the scandal resulting in two US senators and a group of about 30 former Olympians, athletes' representatives and child-advocacy experts to call for his head.

The Usoc had resisted calls as late as last month to fire Blackmun despite Iowa Republican Joni Ernst and New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen pressing for his ouster for failing to act promptly on complaints raised against Nassar and fostering a culture of silence following a report in The Wall Street Journal.

"Scott Blackmun's resignation as CEO is long overdue," John Manly, a lawyer representing 120 of Nassar's victims, said in a statement.

"Under his leadership, Usoc has focused nearly all its efforts on money and medals while our athletes' safety has taken a back seat."

Olympic gold medallist swimmer Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a member of the Committee to Restore Integrity to the Usoc, wrote on Twitter that Blackmun "didn't enact basic #ChildProtection policies or educate the membership about how to prevent it".

Separately, USA Gymnastics said its vice-president of development, Luan Peszek, had left after nearly 30 years but her departure was "not related to the Nassar scandal".

NYTIMES, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 02, 2018, with the headline 'Top US official quits in fallout from Nassar case'. Print Edition | Subscribe