(ATR) The aftermath of the USA Gymnastics sexual abuse scandal will cost U.S. influence in Olympic sport that will take time to rebuild.
Ex-USOC CEO Scott Blackmun, who resigned in February for health reasons, this week gave up two international positions in the wake of the publication of the Ropes & Gray report on the abuse scandal.
That report implicated Blackmun in the year-long delay before taking action on allegations of abuse coming from USA Gymnastics in 2015. The findings of the report deal a blow to the reputation of Blackmun, who was well-regarded during his 10 years as CEO, until the USA Gymnastics scandal blew up in 2016.
Blackmun came under fire as the number of victims going public grew into the hundreds. Victims called for his resignation, saying that he did nothing to protect them in his role at the USOC. While Blackmun made claims he took appropriate action, the Ropes & Gray report indicates otherwise.
Despite his departure from the USOC in February, he maintained a seat on the IOC Marketing Commission. But with the Dec. 9 release of the damning report, Blackmun resigned.
Now comes word from the International Court of Arbitration for Sport that Blackmun has surrendered his seat as one of the 20 members of the court. ICAS Executive Director Mathieu Reeb tells Around the Rings that Blackmun has quit that position as one of four members nominated by ANOC, the Association of National Olympic Committees.
Blackmun had also been a member of the Pan Am Sports Executive Committee for two years, taking over the seat held by USOC chair Larry Probst. Now there are no members of the Pan Am Sports leadership from the U.S., and none leading any of the commissions of the continental association for the NOCs of the Americas.
Sara Hirshland, the new CEO for the USOC, is expected to build her international profile as she takes charge of the Colorado Springs headquarters. Hirshland has attended all the Pan Am Sports meetings since taking her post in August. Last month she travelled to Tokyo to take her seat for the first time as a USOC delegate at the ANOC Assembly.
Not a lawyer as was Blackmun, Hirshland probably won’t end up at ICAS. But her background in marketing would seemingly put her in line for appointments from the IOC and other organizations suitable to her expertise. Plus,as one of the key executives with the joint marketing program for Los Angeles 2028, Hirshland and the USOC will not be overlooked.
Probst, himself resigning as USOC chair in September to clear the way for new leadership, will leave some international vacancies. Now presiding over his final USOC board meeting, Probst formally steps down Dec. 31. Susanne Lyons, a board member since 2010 will take over.
As a result, Probst will leave the seat he’s held on the IOC since 2013. His membership is linked to his NOC post and there is no requirement that he be replaced by his successor. Probst will also vacate his seat on the executive committee of ANOC. It is more likely Lyons could take that seat, but can’t formally happen until October when the next ANOC Assembly is scheduled.
Lyons has already been named to take over from Probst as chair of the ANOC Marketing Commission.
Probst’s IOC departure leaves the U.S. with two members, Anita DeFrantz, now one of the most senior IOC members and Kikkan Randall, elected in 2018 for an eight year term as a member of the IOC Athletes Commission.
It is not certain Probst will be replaced by another American on the IOC as the Olympic Charter allows just one member per country, with some exceptions.
Reported by Ed Hula.