Olympics: Bankruptcy for USOC not an option despite lawsuits

(Reuters) – The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) will not consider bankruptcy protection as it prepares to face lawsuits for failing to protect young gymnasts from the sexual abuse of a team doctor, chairwoman-elect Susanne Lyons said on Friday.

Susanne Lyons, Acting Chief Executive Officer of United States Olympic Committee testifies before a Commerce Subcommittee hearing entitled “Strengthening and Empowering U.S. Amateur Athletes: Moving Forward with Solutions” on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 24, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Every other option, including settlements, would be on the table, Lyons said, as the USOC deals with the fallout from a sex abuse scandal involving Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics (USAG) team doctor.

Nassar was sentenced to up to 300 years in prison in late 2017 and early 2018 after more than 350 women testified about abuse at his hands and lawyers for a number of his victims have filed lawsuits against both USAG and USOC.

Earlier this month the USAG filed for bankruptcy saying that it was staggering under the weight of lawsuits filed by hundreds of women who were sexually abused by Nassar.

“I think we discussed all the potential options but if you are asking about bankruptcy for the USOC, that option is not something that is on the table nor do we anticipate that it would be,” Lyons said in a teleconference.

“We are looking at all options which would include at what time it might be appropriate to enter into discussions about settlements or not.”

Despite months of turmoil and upheaval Larry Probst, who Lyon will replace at the end of the year, said that USOC finances remained solid.

“Everything is in good shape there with revenues running ahead of plan and expenses under plan,” said Probst.

“We are well ahead of our target for financial support in the development area so good news on all fronts financially.”

There was, however, very little other good news.

Earlier on Friday, a U.S. Senate subcommittee investigating sexual abuse in gymnastics determined that former USOC CEO Scott Blackmun had made “materially false statements” to the panel and referred the matter to the FBI.

This comes on the heels of report released on Monday that showed some top USOC executives took no action as the Nassar sexual abuse scandal was unfolding.

The report carried out by law firm Ropes & Gray, offered details on what it called the “inaction” from Blackmun and former chief of sport performance Alan Ashley.

According to the report, Blackmun and Ashley were made aware of allegations against Nassar by then-USA Gymnastics chief executive Steve Penny in July 2015 but neither shared the information with others in the organization.

Probst was asked how it was that Blackmun failed to share what he knew about the Nassar scandal with the board.

“I don’t think it is appropriate for me to speculate on what Scott was thinking or not thinking,” said Probst.

“I cannot speculate on what was going through Scott’s mind or how he went through his decision process.

“Obviously the system broke down in many aspects beginning with some of the things that took place at USAG, at the USOC, Michigan State University.”

Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Nick Mulvenney

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