The Department of Justice is looking at how several Olympic organizations handled sexual abuse complaints, as well as whether there were any financial or management improprieties by former officials, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
According to the Journal, citing people familiar with the investigation, there are at least two parts to the probe. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the U.S. Center for SafeSport were among the entities receiving grand-jury subpoenas earlier this year from the Justice Department's money-laundering and child-exploitation units, as well as the U.S. Attorney's office in Washington.
More than 350 girls and young women have said Larry Nassar abused them in his role as USA Gymnastics team physician. (Photo: Matthew Dae Smith, AP)
SafeSport is the independent clearinghouse that handles sexual abuse complaints in the Olympic movement.
Prosecutors in the Justice Department's public integrity unit also are looking at how the FBI responded to reports of abuse by Larry Nassar, the longtime USA Gymnastics and Michigan State physician, according to the Journal. More than 350 girls and young women, including Olympic champions Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and Gabby Douglas, have said Nassar abused them, often under the guise of medical treatment.
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"Every instance related to potential or actual abuse of athletes warrants thorough investigation,” USOPC spokesman Mark Jones said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports on Friday. “We have cooperated with all government inquiries and will continue to do so.”
It's not clear from the Journal story what stage the investigations are in or when they will be finished.
For more than a decade, the Olympic movement has been rocked by a series of scandals related to sexual abuse of young athletes. Swimming, taekwondo, speedskating and judo — all had experienced crises over their failure to handle abuse claims properly before Nassar's crimes came to light.
The continued failings have been the subject of internal and Congressional investigations and, now, according to the Journal, the Justice Department.
Citing a source "familiar with aspects of the investigation," the Journal said one focus of the investigation appears to be on "failures in the Olympic system, writ large, to respond to signs of widespread child abuse.”
Prosecutors have already spoken with some witnesses, the Journal reported, and have received documents from SafeSport in response to a grand jury subpoena. It also noted that USA Gymnastics said in bankruptcy filings that it has been responding to Justice Department subpoenas as recently as April.
"USA Gymnastics is striving to become an athlete-centric organization that keeps athlete safety and well-being at the forefront of everything it does," the governing body said in a statement to USA TODAY Sports. "USA Gymnastics has cooperated fully with any governmental investigation and will continue to do so in the future."
USA Gymnastics was alerted to possible abuse by Nassar in June 2015. Five weeks later, it reported him to the FBI. But the bureau apparently did nothing with the complaint for almost a year, and USA Gymnastics did not say anything publicly.
Nassar is believed to have abused several more women before Rachael Denhollander publicly accused him of abuse in a September 2016 story with The Indianapolis Star, part of the USA TODAY Network. Nassar was ultimately charged with federal child pornography and state sexual abuse charges, and is serving an effective life sentence after pleading guilty.
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