The “Too Big To Fail” Ethos that has Blinded the USOC Leadership will be its Downfall

Updated: Dec 17, 2018


USOC CEO Hirshland (left) said on a conference call Friday that "there is nothing we have seen [in the Ropes & Gray report] that would indicate there was a problem with the culture created by the [USOC] board.”

The day after the Senate recommend a FBI investigation into former U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun and roughly four days after the very damaging 200+ page report by law firm Ropes and Gray on USOC Executive Leadership malfeasance and negligence, the USOC leadership held a “perky” conference call. Reality check: Contrary to previous times, media attention on USOC activity is not fading. Congress this time around is so alarmed that members demand a broad reform of the USOC.


"We may need to have a full new [USOC] board,” Colorado Democratic U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette told The Gazette.

Tom Roeder and Stephanie Earls write in "The Gazette" today that:


“At a Friday conference call, leaders of the U.S. Olympic Committee celebrated a great fundraising year and a pile of medals earned in the Winter Games. Things are bright, they said, with the possibility of another Winter Games coming to the United States. As incoming board Chairwoman Susanne Lyons put it, the Larry Nassar scandal with its hundreds of victims and pending lawsuits is in the “rearview mirror” for the Colorado Springs-based Olympic Committee…


There is nothing we have seen in (the report) that would indicate there was a problem with the culture created by the board,” USOC CEO Hirshland said.


Where has new USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland been the last six months?? Does she really believe the USOC has no cultural leadership issues, or is she taking direction from USOC lawyers and its aggressive PR Team?? Has she done her homework? We don’t think so.  


Sarah Hirshland, CEO USOC

After all, didn’t Hirshland say that the reason she did not say hello to Aly Raisman, the face and voice of the Olympic sex abuse scandal, during their first meeting in Washington D.C. immediately after the Senate hearing in July, was that the lawyer had advised her not to? Even Aly’s mother, Lynn Raisman, asked the then USOC interim CEO Susanne Lyons about why Hirshland totally snubbed her daughter when her daughter attempted to introduce herself to the incoming USOC CEO.


We hope that Hirshland takes proper reign of the USOC and steers the organization in a direction that will restore American athletes and the American people’s faith in the non-profit, because right now, there is no love lost between the two.


US Congress formally oversees and empowers the USOC via the Ted Stevens Sports Act, signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1978. Our dialogue with Congress makes us confident that Congress does not agree with CEO Hirshland’s assertion “there is nothing we have seen in (the report) that would indicate there was a problem with the culture created by the board.”


Congress intends to act in 2019. The House held a roundtable last week in which Olympians Rising added a strong voice.


According to "The Gazette":


“Colorado Democratic U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, who will take over the chair of the congressional committee overseeing USOC, said Hirshland’s view of where responsibility lies likely will be tested as lawmakers seek to fix an organization whose internal report said leaders turned a blind eye to the attacks on athletes by gymnastics team Dr. Larry Nassar. The fix could be radical, DeGette warned.


“We may need to have a full new board,” DeGette told The Gazette. DeGette’s chairmanship comes with vast authority. “I’m going to have subpoena power,” she said. DeGette said she is still waiting for signs that USOC will move to fix its problems.


“I haven’t seen a demonstration that they are taking this seriously,” she said. The Congresswoman’s consideration of replacing USOC’s board is no idle threat. Congress gave the Olympic Committee its authority and monopoly over the games and could take it away. DeGette said in the past USOC has been slow to embrace change but has eventually fixed itself. But lawmakers won’t give the organization a free pass, she said. “This is at the top of our agenda,” she said.


On the Senate side, "The Wall Street Journal"  reported that Senate Commerce Chair Jerry Moran (R-KS) has joined Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) in calling for an FBI investigation. This is a clear sign that a unified Senate will join the House in taking very tough line on the USOC and its NGBs in 2019.  


Olympians Rising called for a new interim USOC Board and Executive Team in March 2018, that would operate the USOC pending a comprehensive Congressional investigation, and following broad rewrite of the Ted Stevens Act that empowers the USOC.


Oh how Sarah Hirshland must wish she had said ‘hello’ to Aly Raisman, the face and voice of the Olympic sex abuse scandal, during their first meeting in Washington D.C. immediately after the Senate hearing on July 24th. We knew already then that Hirshland lacked the one thing the USOC needed: real leadership qualities. And the tin-eared pronouncements on the Friday call to the media confirm that leadership and concern about the welfare of our athletes are wholly absent from the USOC.

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