By Peter Rutherford
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - The U.S. Olympic system "failed" the hundreds of young female athletes sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Board of Directors Chairman Larry Probst said on Friday.
"The Olympic system in the United States failed these athletes and we are part of the Olympic system in the United States," said Probst, speaking hours before the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Games.
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He also said the USOC had not taken steps quickly enough to contact gymnasts abused by Nassar and that it had erred by failing to attend earlier sentencing hearings.
"That was simply a mistake," he said. "We should have been there."
Olympic champion Simone Biles is among several gymnasts who have criticized USOC for not making efforts to get in touch with them as the scandal unfolded.
"We took too long to reach out to the gymnasts after these revelations became public. We're in the process of doing that now," said Probst.
Former sports doctor Nassar last year pleaded guilty to molesting female athletes under the guise of medical treatment for nearly 20 years, and has been given two prison sentences in Michigan of 40 to 125 years and 40 to 175 years.
He is also serving a 60-year federal term for child pornography convictions. [nL2N1PV0NI]
U.S. lawmakers on Thursday began a second congressional investigation into USOC, USA Gymnastics and other gymnastic organizations over the abuse scandal.
Dozens of the victims, including Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, have accused officials at the USOC, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University of failing to investigate complaints stretching back decades.
The board of directors of USA Gymnastics stepped down after U.S. Olympic officials threatened to decertify the governing body.
The USOC had announced an independent investigation into its own conduct that would help them understand "who knew what about Nassar's abuse, when and what they did with that information".
USOC CEO Scott Blackmun has faced calls to resign but Probst said the organization thought he "did the right thing at every turn".