Nick Zaccardi

OlympicTalk Editor
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Feds probe sex abuse in U.S. Olympic organizations

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Federal investigators are looking into the way the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and national governing bodies of Olympic sports handled sex-abuse allegations, people with knowledge of the investigations told The Associated Press on Friday.

The probes, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, come in the aftermath of the Larry Nassar sex-abuse cases that led to massive turnover at USA Gymnastics and the USOPC. The Journal, citing people familiar with the investigations, reported that the probes were wide-ranging and involved grand jury subpoenas that were sent to the USOPC and the U.S. Center for SafeSport — the organization formed in 2017 to handle sex-abuse cases in the Olympic world.

The people who told the AP about the investigations spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss ongoing probes.

The Wall Street Journal reported that prosecutors have spoken with potential witnesses about alleged abuse and misconduct in Olympic sports organizations, including USA Gymnastics and USA Taekwondo.

The Journal said USA Gymnastics’ lawyers have been responding to Justice Department subpoenas as recently as April, according to bankruptcy filings. The federation filed for bankruptcy last year.

In response to The Journal story, Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., sent out a joint statement saying the USOPC and its NGBs “turned a blind eye to criminal conduct and then (tried) to sweep it under the rug.”

“Everyone who allowed abuse to continue must be held responsible for any and all violations of the law,” the senators said.

They have proposed a bill that would strengthen congressional oversight of Olympic organizations.

USA Gymnastics issued a statement that read: “USA Gymnastics is striving to become an athlete-centric organization that keeps athlete safety and well-being at the forefront of everything it does. USA Gymnastics has cooperated fully with any governmental investigation and will continue to do so in the future.”

USA Taekwondo said: “While we are limited in what we can say while legal proceedings move forward, we want to state clearly that above all else, our top priority at USA Taekwondo is the safety of our athletes.”

The USOPC said it could not confirm the investigations.

“Every instance related to potential or actual abuse of athletes warrants thorough investigation,” spokesman Mark Jones said. “We have cooperated with all government inquiries and will continue to do so.”

One of the people familiar with the investigations told the AP the Justice Department is looking into how the FBI handled reports about Nassar’s abuse that it received from Steve Penny, who was CEO of USA Gymnastics when he delivered the information. He later resigned under pressure.

Nassar, the former national team doctor for USA Gymnastics, is now serving an effective life prison sentence for child porn possession and molesting young women and girls under the guise of medical treatment.

Four Nations Cup, top annual women’s hockey tournament, is canceled

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STOCKHOLM (AP) — The Swedish Ice Hockey Federation canceled the Four Nations Cup, the top annual women’s hockey tournament, in November because it can’t guarantee its players’ participation due to an ongoing pay dispute.

The federation noted the uncertainty regarding their players’ status made it difficult for the three other competing nations to make travel plans. The tournament annually features Finland, the United States and Canada. The U.S. won the last four editions of the event, beating rival Canada in each final.

Sweden’s top players are boycotting their national team because they are unhappy over pay and working conditions.

The players skipped a tournament in Finland in August because of the strike and have yet to agree a new contract with the federation.

They also formed a union and raised complaints over their previous deal, which expired in April. Players are unhappy over their compensation, while also having to fit work and family schedules around national team requirements.

Other complaints included travel conditions and schedules, the short- and long-term vision for women’s hockey in Sweden and a perceived lack of respect.

Swedish players are following in the steps of U.S. women’s national team members who were successful in landing better compensation after threatening to boycott the 2017 World Championship being held in Michigan.

In May, more than 200 of the world’s top players pledged to boycott playing in North America this season in a push to establish a women’s professional league with what they say must be a sustainable economic model. They formed a union, the Professional Women’s Hockey Players’ Association.

The Swedish players have the PWHPA’s support.

“It’s tough to see, for sure, but I think it really speaks to the fact that we are all only as strong as our weakest link,” PWHPA board member Liz Knox wrote in a text to The Associated Press. “We support them striving for better because in the end, women’s hockey as a whole will be the better for it.”

Anders Larsson, chairman of the Swedish Ice Hockey Federation, last month said the boycott is damaging the brand of the country’s hockey team and is a failure for both the federation and the Swedish team.

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Kaillie Humphries wants to bobsled for U.S. after harassment, abuse claims

Kaillie Humphries
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Kaillie Humphries, a two-time Olympic bobsled gold medalist for Canada and one of the top drivers in her sport’s history, is planning to race for the U.S. this coming season and beyond.

Humphries has been seeking her release from Canada for several weeks, and it still has not been received. She is marrying former U.S. men’s bobsledder Travis Armbruster on Saturday, and that would allow her to represent the U.S. in competition — provided she is released by Canada.

Humphries has been estranged from the Canadian bobsled program for more than a year after filing harassment and abuse claims. She did not race last season and hasn’t competed in a major international race since earning bronze at the PyeongChang Olympics.

“They have not provided me a safe place to come back to compete,” Humphries said.

CBC first reported Humphries’ desire to race for the U.S., reporting that she is suing Bobsleigh Canada for blocking her release and breaching their contract relating to athlete and coach code of conduct. Bobsleigh Canada declined to comment on Humphries’ case.

“This has been my life, it’s been a 15-year career,” a tearful Humphries said in a CBC video interview. “This is everything that I dreamed of since I was a kid, and to know that a country has supported me so strongly, and the people in the country have been so great.”

USA Bobsled and Skeleton told Humphries — a two-time world champion and four-time overall World Cup champion — that it would welcome her to the team. She is very close with U.S. women’s bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor.

Adding Humphries would be a major boost to the U.S. roster. The U.S. women’s program has been one of the best in the world for nearly two decades, but lost Olympic veteran pilot Jamie Greubel Poser to retirement in 2018 and didn’t enjoy its usual level of overall success last season.

There is an urgency to Humphries’ quest for the release. Under international rules she would need it by Sept. 30 to be able to compete for the U.S. this season. The U.S. team is scheduled to begin training on ice in early October, weather permitting.

Humphries has been one of the most dominant bobsledders, the only female driver to win multiple Olympic titles.

MORE: USA Bobsled and Skeleton dismisses CEO

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