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Scandal could be US equivalent to Russian doping

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The sex abuse scandal roiling USA Gymnastics could become the United States' equivalent of the doping controversy involving Russian athletes at the last Winter Games, senior International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound said yesterday.

The sentencing of former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar on Wednesday to 175 years in prison for molesting athletes including Olympic gold medallists Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Simone Biles and Jordyn Wieber, has sparked outrage and multiple investigations into sexual abuse in sports.

A week of gut-wrenching courtroom revelations by gymnasts has led to separate investigations by the US House of Representatives, the US Senate, and the US Department of Education. Those investigations seek to establish if other sports officials turned a blind eye to Nassar's abuses and to examine allegations of harassment by officials in other sports, including swimming and taekwondo.

Pound, who oversaw the IOC investigation of the bribery scandal surrounding the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and set up the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), said the IOC was unlikely to get directly involved in any investigation or to sanction the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) for failing to act faster.

But he said the issue could find its way onto the agenda of next week's IOC session in South Korea ahead of the Pyeongchang Winter Games, and that he might raise the topic if no one else does.

"This is kind of the US equivalent in abuse of the Russian doping ... It might well (become the next big issue)," Pound told Reuters in a telephone interview from Florida.

He said that the scandal had not been on the IOC's horizon when the agenda for next week's meeting was drawn up.

"Certainly if there is no indication that anybody is going to do it there is always the opportunity under 'other business' to say, 'Hey, maybe perhaps we haven't had a chance to get the right back swing in here, but what is the IOC going to do with the whole problem?" he said.

The IOC banned Russia last month from Pyeongchang over "systematic manipulation" of the anti-doping system at the 2014 Sochi Games. It left the door open to athletes with no history of doping to compete as "Olympic Athletes from Russia." A total of 169 Russian athletes have been cleared to compete at the Pyeongchang Olympic Games. With Nassar condemned to spend the rest of his life behind bars, the focus has shifted to the coaches, federations and institutions, including the USOC, that allowed the abuse in US gymnastics to go unchecked.

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