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Nassar survivors attorney calls on LA 2028, Los Angeles put USOC partnership on hold

BEVERLY HILLS >> An attorney for 180 survivors of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse called on the Los Angeles for the 2028 Olympic Games and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to put LA 2028 and the city’s partnership with the U.S. Olympic Committee on hold until the extent of a potential cover-up and the USOC’s knowledge of the abuse is fully determined.

John Manly, flanked by four of the most prominent survivors of Nassar, on Tuesday also sharply criticized Garcetti and LA 2028 chairman Casey Wasserman for not speaking up during a sex abuse scandal that has garnered global attention, cast a shadow over decades of Olympic success by American gymnasts and now threatens the very existence of USA Gymnastics and the USOC.

The comments by Manly, Nassar survivors Jordyn Wieber, an Olympic and World champion, Olympic medalist Jamie Dantzscher, World Championships team member Jeanette Antolin, and Rachel Denhollander came a day after the release of a 233-page report by Ropes & Gray, the Boston-based law firm hired by the USOC to investigate the handling of the Nassar case. The report detailed how USA Gymnastics, the USOC, and Michigan State and law enforcement including the FBI enabled Nassar, the former U.S. Olympic and USA Gymnastics team physician, to sexually abuse young gymnasts and athletes for decades.

RELATED: See story on the Ropes & Gray report

The gymnasts said the Ropes & Gray report only highlights the need for a wide ranging Congressional investigation of USOC and USA Gymnastics. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) on Tuesday called for an FBI investigation of the USOC and USA Gymnastics.

“The US Olympic Committee and its culture is infected with a virus and a cancer and it needs to be rooted out,” Manly said. “It’s time for Congress to act.”

LA 2028 and the USOC launched joint marketing venture this past summer that is projected to raise as much as $2.5 billion in sponsorship revenues. The USOC, LA 2028 and the city are also involved in other agreements related to the 2028 Games.

“And the Mayor and Mr. Wasserman often speak for women’s causes, for women’s rights and for young women, getting young women involved in sport,” Manly said. “And those are all laudable things. Strangely the Mayor and Mr. Wasserman have been completely mute when it comes to supporting these women. They haven’t said a word. Perhaps that’s because their partner in the LA 2028 Games is the United States Olympic Committee. Mr. Mayor you can’t have it both ways. You need to speak up and Mr. Wasserman you need to speak up and hold your partner to account.

Gymnasts Jordyn Wieber and Jamie Dantzscher ask congress on Tuesday, December 11, 2018 in Beverly Hills to investigate the United States Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics after an investigation found the organizations allegedly attempted to cover-up the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal. They also want Mayor Garcetti and LA 2028 to cut ties with the USOC. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz, Pasadena Star-News/SCNG)

“Someone who is engaged with this conduct should not be partners and stand to benefit in the forms of billions of dollars in revenue from the Olympic Games when they’ve engaged in misconduct. No. So I would ask the Mayor and Mr. Wasserman to put their partnership with the USOC on hold until it’s clear this is an entity worthy of this city and of being involved with the Games.”Wasserman released a statement Tuesday afternoon.

“The sexual assaults perpetrated within the US Gymnastics program are terrible and appalling. I offer my deepest sympathies and support to the more than one hundred victims, survivors, families and all of those affected,” Wasserman said. “As the Ropes and Gray report pointed out, it is extremely concerning that opportunities to protect athletes were missed. The entire American Olympic community must re-dedicate itself to supporting athletes, undertaking every needed reform, and committing every available resource to ensure these crimes can never happen again. The prompt action of the USOC’s new leadership this week is an important start.”

Garcetti also issued a statement on Tuesday night in response:

”What happened to these athletes is unconscionable, and I support the survivors and their call for a full and transparent investigation. I have said before that those who were aware of Dr. Nassar’s horrific abuse and did nothing, must be held accountable. The USOC and National Governing Bodies exist to protect young athletes and help them achieve their dreams. It is essential to rebuild trust in these organizations with truth and justice.”

The Ropes & Gray investigation revealed that then USOC CEO Scott Blackmun and Alan Ashley, USOC chief of sport performance, failed to take action or notify USOC board members after they were informed of allegations against Nassar during the summer of 2015, deleted emails related to Nassar and in Blackmun’s case misled a USOC board member about when the USOC was informed of the allegations against Nassar.

“It’s hard enough to tell our story again and again and again,” Wieber said. “It’s even more difficult to continue to hear news of more people who knew about this and didn’t do anything. And I think one of the number one things we’ve been talking about is the toxic culture.”

Blackmun resigned under pressure in February. Ashley was fired Monday morning.“This report makes it abundantly clear if it’s not so already, that little girls were not worth anything to USOC and USAG,” said Denhollander, who was in Los Angeles to receive Sports Illustrated’s Inspiration of the Year award. “I was not worth enough. Jeanette and Jordyn and Jamie were not worth enough. The hundreds of little girls that were abused by Larry, the dozens that were molested after 2015 when USAG and USOC knew he was a serial pedophile were not worth enough to them.

“What we have seen in this report is the tip of the iceberg. It is betrayal upon betrayal. Not only did they betray us when we needed them desperately to protect, but when Jamie and I came forward they betrayed us again. Because they knew what Larry was. They had evidence of his sexual abuse and instead of speaking up and helping with the police investigation when we were out there alone they deleted emails, they removed files, they hired private investigators to dig up dirt knowing full well they were choosing to protect a serial pedophile.”

Elizabeth Chou contributed to this story.

Full video of press conference Tuesday:

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