The New York Times reported that serial sex offender Larry Nassar’s activities were not that big a secret, yet Kathy Scanlan, president of USA Gymnastics from 1994 to 1999, kept quiet about it once the USOC told her, in effect, to keep her trap shut:
By Juliet Macur | November 22, 2018
The United States Olympic Committee was made aware of sexual abuse in gymnastics more than two decades before the Lawrence G. Nassar molestation scandal shook the sport to its core, according to court documents filed Wednesday in a California federal court.
Kathy Scanlan, the president of U.S.A. Gymnastics from 1994 to 1998, said in a sworn statement last month that she had notified the U.S.O.C. of the sexual abuse problem soon after she took charge of the organization. The U.S.O.C.’s response, she said, was to discourage her from using the federation’s established protocol for investigating and disciplining its professional members who were accused of sexual abuse. She said that she had gone ahead and pursued cases the accused anyway.
“U.S.O.C.’s challenge to U.S.A.G. disciplining professional members in this fashion (specifically impeding the ability to ban, suspend or investigate a member) would have inhibited me from adequately protecting minor members,” Scanlan said in her statement, which was part of hundreds of pages of documents filed Wednesday in a lawsuit that Aly Raisman, the two-time Olympian, has filed. Raisman is suing Nassar, who was the national team doctor; the U.S.O.C.; U.S.A. Gymnastics; and other defendants.
Scanlan’s testimony highlighted the fact that the federation and the U.S.O.C. had battled for years over how to handle sexual abuse cases. That conflict appears to have lasted until at least 1999, when Scanlan’s successor, Bob Colarossi, confronted the U.S.O.C. in a letter that was unsealed in 2017 as part of another sex abuse case in the sport.
There’s much more at the original, but the article lists Steve Penny, who took over as president and chief executive of the federation after Mr Colarossi left, as having done little to protect the athletes from a predator, “waited five weeks to contact the F.B.I. after learning that gymnasts had complained of Nassar’s inappropriate touching.” He has been charged with felony evidence tampering, accused of removing documents pertaining to Dr Nasser from USA Gymnastics national training center in Texas.
But while the article and testimony is damning to the USOC, I also find it damning to Mrs Scanlan and Mr Colarossi: they knew what was happening, and were frustrated in their attempts to work through the USOC, but, rather than risk their jobs by going to the police or making their allegations in public — something which allowed Dr Nassar to continue to prey on teenaged girls for another decade — they kept their mouths shut. Mrs Scanlan’s statement again:
U.S.O.C.’s challenge to U.S.A.G. disciplining professional members in this fashion (specifically impeding the ability to ban, suspend or investigate a member) would have inhibited me from adequately protecting minor members.
Uhhh, it didn’t prevent her from calling the police! It was only her fear of losing her job that prevented her from calling the police.
Dr Nassar will never get out of prison. He was sentenced to 60 years in federal prison on child pornography charges, and then to 40 to 175 years on state charges of sexual abuse of minors, and then another 40 to 125 years on subsequent state charges. Wikipedia notes that his earliest possible release date is March 23, 2069, when he would be 105½ years old. The only problem is that he’s in a federal prison, rather than the Michigan state penitentiary; state pens are usually worse places than Club Fed.
But, to me, Mrs Scanlan and Messrs Colarossi and Penny are just as guilty as Dr Nassar; by keeping their mouths shut, when they could and should have gone to the police, they made themselves accessories to his crimes. Just as Monsignor William Lynn was convicted on child endangerment charges, charges subsequently overturned on legal technicalities, but he faces being tried again, for having covered up child sexual abuse by priests without ever having abused anyone himself, the presidents of USA Gymnastics who failed to report Dr Nassar to the police when the USOC tamped down their concerns should also be held liable, if statutes of limitations don’t stand in the way. (Mrs Scanlan’s failures were 19 years ago.)
Further, the USOC officials who impeded the investigation are just as much accessories as the USAG presidents. There are a whole bunch of people who ought to be side-by-side with Dr Nassar in the clink.
The trial and conviction of Msgr Lynn was meant not only to punish him, but to send the message to other Catholic officials: covering up this stuff makes you just as guilty, just as legally liable as the abusers themselves. Holding the USAG and USOC officials who attempted to sweep this stuff under the rug legally accountable will send the message to people similarly situated: you cover up sexual abuse by others, and you will be legally an accessory, and go to jail.