Gymnastics Scandal Fallout on USOC Agenda

(ATR) Amid an array of challenges, a new chair leads her first board meeting for the U.S. Olympic Committee.

(ATR) Amid an array of challenges, a new chair leads her first board meeting for the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Susanne Lyons, a former top executive at Visa and a USOC board member since 2010, takes the gavel in Los Angeles where the first of four scheduled meetings in 2019 will be held.

The agenda for the day-long meeting deals with the array of serious issues confronting the USOC in the aftermath of the USA Gymnastics sexual abuse scandal.

Both USOC and national governing body USA Gymnastics are under fire from Washington as well as athletes over the failures that led to the debacle. Former team physician Larry Nassar will likely spend the rest of his life in prison, the perpetrator of hundreds of assaults on young athletes during the 10+ years he was associated with USAG.

The agenda for today’s meeting includes a congressional report. After a series of hearings in the House and Senate in 2018, the possibility of more in 2019 is a possibility. Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, chair of the Finance Committee which has oversight over the USOC, sent a letter in January to CEO Sarah Hirshland demanding answers to questions about the scandal. This month the USOC delivered a nine page response.

Hirshland, who started work in Colorado Springs last August, is charged with developing a long term strategy to reshape the culture and organization of the USOC. Hirshland will report to the board on the Grassley response and her expectations from the U.S. Congress.

There may be calls to revise the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act. There’s also talk of revoking the tax status of the USOC that avoids tax on sponsorship revenue.

An update on the so-called Borders Commission is on the agenda. Led by former WNBA Commissioner Lisa Borders, the commission was formed to come up with recommendations to bolster the accountability that critics are demanding from the USOC. The commission is exploring the relationships between the USOC, athletes and the NGBs.

Athletes Advisory Council chair and board member Han Xiao has time on the agenda to report on ways the AAC and the USOC can collaborate to better empower athletes.

The board will hear more on the uprising by a group of athletes pressing for the wholesale resignation of the USOC board. The Committee to Restore Integrity lists 200+ athletes, coaches and other sports figures calling for more from the USOC.

An agenda item before lunch will cover athlete safety and a report on the U.S. Center for Safe Sport. The center is being led by an interim CEO and is substantially funded by the USOC. Meanwhile, the USOC has established and hired an executive charged with athlete safety.

The USOC board will hear about personnel moves since the last meeting in December. At that meeting, Alan Ashley had just been jettisoned as director of sport performance, the number-two job at the USOC. Ashley, a 12 year veteran in Colorado Springs, was found to have misled Lyons last February with his account of his actions regarding the USA Gymnastics scandal.

Since then Rick Adams, former head of the U.S. Paralympic program at the USOC has taken over the sports performance post.

This will be the first meeting of the USOC board since the departure of Patrick Sandusky, chief of external relations. After 10 years in Colorado Springs, he’s moved to New York to be a senior VP for public relations at Madison Square Garden. The press conference following today’s board meeting will be led by media chief Mark Jones.

Reported by Ed Hula.