Top USOC official fired after independent report details Nassar cover-up

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By Sarah Fitzpatrick and Corky Siemaszko

The U.S. Olympic Committee fired a top official Monday just hours after independent investigators revealed that he and the former CEO of the USOC knew for 14 months that team doctor Larry Nassar had been accused of molesting dozens of young girls — and failed to sound any alarms.

Chief of sport performance Alan Ashley was terminated because he and former CEO Scott Blackmun enabled a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” to molest and abuses dozens more girls under the guise of providing them medical treatment,” the 233-page report by the law firm Ropes & Gray states.

“While Nassar bears ultimate responsibility for his decades-long abuse of girls and young woman he did not operate in a vacuum,” investigators Joan McPhee and James Dowden wrote.

“Instead, he acted within an ecosystem that facilitated his criminal acts. Numerous institutions and individuals enabled his abuse and failed to stop him.”

Alan Ashley poses for a photo at the USA House at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea on February 16, 2018.Joe Scarnici / Getty Images for USOC file

Ashley’s ouster was confirmed by USOC spokesman Mark Jones. The former USOC officials Ashley and Blackmun could not be reached for comment.

Ashley and Blackmun, who resigned in February after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, were notified of the abuse allegations against Nassar in July 2015 by USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny, according to the new report.

Nassar was allowed to quietly resign as USAG medical coordinator in September 2015.

Penny’s goal, as he told an FBI agent, was to keep the allegations against Nassar under wraps to avoid “sending shockwaves through the community,” the report states.

USA Gymnastics did not alert Michigan State University, where Nassar was employed full time and continued to treat patients for a full year.

Instead of alerting the athletes about Nassar, Ashley and Blackmun decided “to keep the matter to themselves,” according to the report.

“The USOC as an organization was effectively disabled from considering and taking appropriate action in response to the athlete complaints and Nassar due to the decision by two senior officers of the USOC,” it states.

USA Gymnastics has previously said it didn’t alert MSU about the allegations because the FBI asked it not to do anything that could interfere with the investigation. “USA Gymnastics denies any allegation that it had wide-ranging knowledge of abuse by Nassar or that it concealed or ignored his abuse,” the organization told NBC News in April.

It wasn’t until September 2016 that the public first found out that the FBI was investigating Nassar — when the Indianapolis Star first broke the story. Soon after, Nassar was fired by MSU.

From left to right, USOC Chairman Larry Probst, USOC CEO Scott Blackmun, USOC Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Baird, USOC Chief of Sport Performance Alan Ashley and Cheif External Affairs Officer Patrick Sandusky address the media during the Team USA Media Summit ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Park City, Utah on September 25, 2017.Maxx Wolfson / Getty Images file

In January, Nassar was hit with a sentence of 40 to 175 years in prison after some powerful testimony from some of his victims and an outraged judge.

“Not only had Mr. Penny kept the vast majority of USAG personnel in the dark about Nassar’s alleged misconduct, but the organization also failed to implement any systematic child-protective measures to ensure that Nassar would be stopped from further abusing athletes while under investigation for serial sexual abuse,” the report stated.

Nassar’s name had even remained on “USAG’s list of recommended physicians on the organization’s public website, [and] he also continued to see patients and pursue other opportunities following his departure from USAG.”

Rachael Denhollander, a former gymnast and the first woman to publicly accuse Nassar of assault, told NBC News the report validated her claims and those of the other victims.

“The Ropes & Gray report confirmed what we, the survivors of Larry’s abuse, have been saying for years,” she said. “The USOC enabled and covered up for a known serial pedophile and lied about it. This is only the tip of the iceberg with USOC’s complicity in abuse. It is past time for the USOC to take responsibility for its role in enabling abuse in our Olympic sports.”

Attorney John Manley, who represents more than 180 Nassar victims, including well-known Olympic gymnasts like McKayla Maroney, called the report “a stinging indictment” of the USOC.

“The report firmly establishes that the top leadership of the US Olympic Committee was aware of Nassar’s criminal conduct year before they have publicly acknowledged it,” he said in a statement.

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