By Peter Rutherford
PYEONGCHANG (Reuters) – International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said he was saddened by the “tragic and criminal” sexual abuse case that has rocked U.S. gymnastics and that he hopes an independent investigation will ascertain where athletes were failed.
Disgraced long-time USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar has been sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for molesting young female gymnasts under the guise of medical treatment.
The case against Nassar has sparked investigations into how U.S. Olympic officials, USA Gymnastics, the sport’s governing body, and Michigan State University, where Nassar also worked, failed to investigate complaints about him going back years.
Bach, speaking on Sunday after an IOC Executive Board meeting ahead of this month’s Winter Games, said discussions on the issue had been very emotional.
“The IOC Executive Board is deeply shocked and saddened by the abuse scandal in the U.S. Gymnastics Federation,” Bach said in a statement.
“It expressed its moral support for the victims and applauded the courage of the victims who gave testimony.
“It took note of the ongoing independent investigation and hopes that this will also give clarity to the responsibilities of the different parties.”
More than 150 victims offered anguished accounts of years of abuse by Nassar, who is also serving a 60-year federal term for child pornography convictions.
Under pressure from the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), the entire board of USA Gymnastics resigned while the president and athletic director at Michigan State University also stepped down.
Bach said international sports federations and National Olympics Committees should look carefully at an IOC toolkit on safeguarding athletes from harassment and abuse.
The Winter Olympic run from Feb. 9-25 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)