USOC Hits Back at Lopez Lawsuit

(ATR) Patrick Sandusky, USOC spokesperson, says the claims in the suit were "calculated to provoke and offend".

(ATR) A spokesperson for the United States Olympic Committee says "fantastical claims" made in a lawsuit against the Lopez brothers aim to provoke sporting bodies instead of seeking justice.

A statement form USOC spokesperson Patrick Sandusky, originally to the AP, says the committee will "vigorously defend itself" against what it says are "outrageous claims" from the lawsuit.

Last week, a class-action lawsuit was filed in U.S. federal court in Colorado accusing both two-time gold medalist in taekwondo Steven Lopez and his brother/coach Jean Lopez of a pattern of sexual assault. The lawsuit alleges that both the USOC and USA Taekwondo knew about the behavior and did not take action.

The lawsuit was filed by four named plaintiffs along with other unnamed plaintiffs as a class-action suit seeking damages through the Sports Abuse Act of 2017. The act was passed in congress after the fallout from the Larry Nassar USA Gymnastics scandal. Last year, the USOC also helped create the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which allows athletes and coaches to report instances of harassment and abuse.

The center for SafeSport suspended Steven Lopez after the lawsuit was filed. The center had previously declared Jean Lopez "permanently ineligible" from coaching pending appeal.

Sandusky said in his statement that the USOC’s stern objection with the lawsuit is not a criticism of the athletes seeking damages, but rather their lawyers.

"We do not normally comment on active litigation; in this case though, counsel’s fantastical claims seem calculated to provoke and offend rather than to genuinely seek relief from the judicial system," Sandusky said. "Although we have only just received this complaint, it appears to be a cynical attempt by counsel to subvert important protective laws with the goal of sensationalizing this case."

The Lopez scandal is just one of multiple athlete abuse scandals rocking Olympic sport in the United States. USA Gymnastics and USA Swimming have been hit with revelations in the past years about unreported sexual abuse in their respective ranks.

"The USOC remains focused on supporting, protecting and empowering the athletes we serve," Sandusky added. "We are aggressively exploring and implementing new ways to enhance athlete safety, and prevent and respond to abuse. We have taken and are continuing to take significant actions, including the recent launch of the U.S. Center for SafeSport, to better protect our athletes from the heinous acts."

The USOC took action in urging the resignation of USA Gymnastics board during Nassar’s sentencing. The USOC was also criticized for its slow reaction in attending the sentencing. An independent investigation is underway to determine how much the organization knew about Nassar before alerting the FBI in 2015 about his activities.

Scott Blackmun, former chief executive of the USOC, resigned earlier this year after a cancer diagnosis saying he was not the best person to steward the organization through the scandals. His acting replacement has been Susanne Lyons, who most recently acknowledged the need to protect athletes at last month’s Team USA awards. A search for a permanent chief executive is ongoing.

Lyons will be called before Congress to testify later this month along with leaders of the U.S. national governing bodies for gymnastics, swimming, taekwondo, and volleyball.

Written by Aaron Bauer

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