Senators Request F.B.I. Inquiry Into Whether U.S.O.C. Chief Lied to Congress

WASHINGTON — A Senate subcommittee investigating sexual abuse in Olympic and amateur sports has asked the Justice Department and the F.B.I. to investigate Scott Blackmun, the former chief executive of the United States Olympic Committee, claiming that he lied to Congress during its inquiry into how Olympic entities handled the Lawrence G. Nassar molestation case.

Two senators, Jerry Moran of Kansas, the subcommittee’s chairman, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, the ranking member of the subcommittee that holds jurisdiction over the U.S.O.C. and amateur sports, sent referral letters on Friday to Matthew G. Whitaker, the acting attorney general, and Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, saying Blackmun had “made false claims and misled our subcommittee — harming the investigation and ability to develop policy.”

They added, “Just as importantly, survivors of abuse have had to wait longer for the truth and longer for systemic changes to help prevent others from similar injury.”

The request came three days after Senator Blumenthal formally asked the F.B.I. to look into the role of the U.S.O.C. and U.S.A. Gymnastics in the Nassar case and what he called “their role in this massive cover-up.”

On Monday, the law firm Ropes & Gray released a 233-page report detailing some of the ways that both sports organizations mishandled the Nassar case, which involved a longtime national gymnastics team doctor, who is now in prison, molesting hundreds of girls and women. It took Steve Penny, then the chief executive of U.S.A. Gymnastics, five weeks to refer the case to the F.B.I. after learning of the abuse of national team gymnasts.

Penny told Blackmun and Alan Ashley, another high-level U.S.O.C. official, of the abuse in July 2015, but the Olympic committee executives failed to report it to law enforcement, investigate it or even share the information with the organization’s own department that handled sexual abuse cases. The case was made public in September 2016 in an article published by The Indianapolis Star.

Blackmun resigned in February, and on his way out was given accolades from the U.S.O.C. board for doing “a phenomenal job.” He could not be reached for comment. Ashley was fired on Monday.

In June, Blackmun submitted testimony to the Senate subcommittee in lieu of testifying in person, saying he was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, and also subsequently answered the senators’ questions. In his testimony, he said that he spoke to the U.S.O.C.’s SafeSport staff — the group that dealt with matters involving sex abuse — regarding the Nassar accusations.

But according to Monday’s report, Ropes & Gray investigators found no evidence that Blackmun followed up with anyone at the U.S.O.C. regarding the abuse allegations — despite Blackmun’s initial claim that he started an internal review of the Nassar matter. Blackmun later told investigators that he was mistaken about that initiative.

The Senate subcommittee is now claiming that Blackmun’s “own statements to the independent investigators appear to contradict his statement to the subcommittee.”

Larry Probst, the chairman of the U.S.O.C., said in a teleconference on Friday that it was “not appropriate” for the board to comment on Blackmun’s case because it had not read the senators’ referral letters to the Justice Department and F.B.I.

“I cannot comment on what was going through Scott’s mind and how he went through his decisions,” he said. “Obviously, the system broke down in many aspects.”

Probst said the breakdown began at U.S.A. Gymnastics and included what happened at Michigan State, where Nassar was employed.

After a 10-year tenure leading the board, Probst will step down as chairman at the end of this month. Susanne Lyons, who until July served as the U.S.O.C.’s interim chief executive, will replace him.

In the teleconference, Lyons said that she and Sarah Hirshland, the organization’s new chief executive, would make it a priority to ensure that the communication between them is clear and that expectations of what Hirshland needs to tell the board are exact.

“We need to have an open and honest conversation and make sure we are in alignment,” Lyons said.

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