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USOC CEO apologizes, says he was unaware of extent of sexual abuse

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The U.S. Olympic Committee CEO said in a letter he was not aware of the full scope of the Larry Nassar sex-abuse allegations before law enforcement got involved, and that he had no knowledge of a settlement between USA Gymnastics and 2012 Olympic champion McKayla Maroney in a case involving the now-imprisoned former team doctor.

CEO Scott Blackmun sent the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, on Thursday, the day after Maroney filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the nondisclosure clauses in the settlement.

The USOC is named as a defendant, and the lawsuit said the federation had long promoted a culture that concealed known and suspected sex abusers.

In the letter, Blackmun wrote, “I am so sorry that the Olympic family failed these athletes,” and that while the USOC found out too late, it has taken steps to prevent future abuse by creating the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which investigates sex-abuse allegations in Olympic sports.

“And I want to be crystal clear on the topic of transparency,” Blackmun wrote. “During my tenure as CEO, which began in 2010, we have never been, and will not be, party to any effort to conceal or keep confidential allegations or instances of sexual abuse.”

Maroney’s lawyer, John Manly, called the letter “repugnant.”

“If you’re the USOC, and you’re really committed to this, what you should do is get on the phone to the USA [Gymnastics] board and say you’re out or we’re decertifying you,” Manly said.

He said Maroney does not seek damages in the lawsuit, but only to be released from the nondisclosure and non-disparagement clauses in the settlement.

Maroney reached the settlement with USA Gymnastics in December 2016.

In October 2017, she publicly revealed the extent of the abuse she suffered via Twitter, saying Nassar began abusing her when she was 13 and attending national team training camp.

Nassar admitted to sexually assaulting female gymnasts, possessing child pornography and molesting girls who sought treatment.

He was sentenced earlier this month to serve 60 years in federal prison for possessing thousands of images of child pornography.

Though Maroney was not part of that case, she and her mother wrote letters to the court detailing Nassar’s abuse and how it impacted the gymnast.

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MORE: Maroney: Nassar should spend life in prison

Salwa Eid Naser, world 400m champion, provisionally banned

Salwa Eid Naser
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Salwa Eid Naser, the world 400m champion of Bahrain, was provisionally suspended for missing three drug tests in a 12-month span.

“I’ve never been a cheat. I will never be,” Naser, 22, said in an Instagram live video. “I only missed three drug tests, which is normal. It happens. It can happen to anybody. I don’t want people to get confused in all this because I would never cheat.”

Naser said “the missed tests” came before last autumn’s world championships, where she ran the third-fastest time in history (48.14 seconds) and the fastest in 34 years.

“This year I have not been drug tested,” she said. “We are still talking about the ones of last season before the world championships.”

The Athletics Integrity Unit, which handles doping cases for track and field, did not announce whether Naser’s gold medal could be stripped.

“Hopefully, it’ll get resolved because I don’t really like the image, but it has happened,” she said. “It’s going to be fine. It’s very hard to have this little stain on my name.”

Naser, the 2017 World silver medalist, upset Olympic champion Shaunae Miller-Uibo of the Bahamas for the world title in Doha on Oct. 3.

The only women who have run faster than Naser, who was born Ebelechukwu Agbapuonwu in Nigeria to a Nigerian mother who sprinted and a Bahraini father, were dubious — East German Marita Koch (47.60) and Czechoslovakia’s Jarmila Kratochvilova (47.99).

“I would never take performance-enhancing drugs,” Naser said. “I believe in talent, and I know I have the talent.”

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When Laurie Hernandez winked at the Olympics

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Blink, and you may have missed one of the social-media-sensation moments of the Rio Olympics.

Laurie Hernandez, then 16, was the youngest woman on the U.S. Olympic team across all sports. She was about to start arguably the most important floor exercise routine of her life.

So, she winked.

“The amazing thing about the Olympics is that you feel so many different emotions in the span of a few days, and they are all intense,” she wrote in her 2017 book, “I Got This,” a nod to what she told herself before her balance beam routine earlier that night. “So it was nice to have at least one totally playful moment.”

The U.S., on its fourth and final rotation, already had the team gold all but locked up. Knowing she was nervous, Hernandez’s teammates confirmed to her that they were a few points ahead.

Then Hernandez heard the beep, and it was time to go. She was in the view of an out-of-bounds judge at the Rio Olympic Arena.

“Well, I looked straight at her and suddenly felt this surge of confidence to wink,” she wrote. “Later, a woman came up to me while I was watching Simone [Biles] and Aly [Raisman] compete in their all-around finals and she said, ‘Wow, I just want you to know that when you winked at the judge, it really worked.’ I didn’t know how to respond, so I just said, ‘Thank you. That’s very nice of you to say.’ That’s when she told me she was the out-of-bounds judge! All I could say was ‘Oh my goodness.'”

Hernandez, a New Jersey native, finished the Olympics with a team gold and balance beam silver.

She took more than two years off before making a comeback in earnest last year, announcing she planned to return to competition this spring under new coaches in California. Now that’s on hold given the coronavirus pandemic, which pushed the Tokyo Olympics to 2021.

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