U.S. Olympics Chief Received $2.4 Million Severance Amid Scandal
The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee reported Wednesday that it had made a $2.4 million severance payment to its former chief executive, Scott Blackmun, when he stepped down under pressure in the wake of the gymnastics abuse scandal.
The committee, which released the information as part of its annual financial reporting, said its administrative costs for the year were up because of that payment as well as other costs associated with the scandal.
Mr. Blackmun stepped down in February 2018, as the committee was criticized over its handling of the scandal, involving the national team doctor for gymnastics, Dr. Lawrence G. Nassar. Dr. Nassar was sent to prison for decades after being accused of sexually abusing more than 150 women and girls.
Mr. Blackmun had called for the resignation of the board of U.S.A. Gymnastics, but many said his actions were too little and too late. Members of Congress and former Olympians were among those who called for Mr. Blackmun to resign.
Mr. Blackmun also had health issues. He had to miss the 2018 Olympics to undergo treatment for prostate cancer. Upon his resignation, he was asked what lesson he could draw from the past two years, and replied, “I don’t know that there is a particular lesson from the last two years.”
In a statement, Susanne Lyons, who leads the U.S.O.P.C.’s board, said: “In 2018 the U.S.O.P.C. board of directors approved a separation agreement including severance for former C.E.O. Scott Blackmun. At that time, based on the requirement for new leadership to guide the organization forward, as well as Blackmun’s serious health challenges, the board approved a separation agreement, as provided for in his contract.”
Sarah Hirshland, a longtime executive with the United States Golf Association, was hired to replace Mr. Blackmun last summer.
The committee turned a profit of $47 million in 2018; typically it runs in the black in Olympic years, and the surpluses cover deficits in non-Olympic years. However, the committee’s administrative costs for 2018 were up to 11.8 percent of their expenses, from a four-year average of 7 percent, and the committee said that was largely because of costs of an independent investigation into the gymnastics scandal.
That scathing report, released last December, found that Mr. Blackmun and Alan Ashley, the chief of sport performance, knew about accusations against Dr. Nassar a year before they became public knowledge but did little to investigate the matter. Mr. Ashley was immediately dismissed; Mr. Blackmun, who had long said the matter should be handled by U.S.A. Gymnastics, had already stepped down.
The committee also faced legal costs and costs associated with appearances of committee officials in front of Congress. A hearing in May 2018 did not go well for the committee; a Congressman shouted at the acting chief executive, Ms. Lyons, “You are not fit to serve in this job.”
The committee, formerly known as the U.S.O.C., added “Paralympic” to its name last month.
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