A U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee commissioned review into allegations of an abusive culture within the U.S. Rowing men’s national team program will also consider potential misconduct by U.S. national team head coach Mike Teti during his tenure at the University of California, according to USOPC documents obtained by the Southern California News Group.
The USOPC in September received more than 50 allegations of physical, verbal abuse, retaliation and sexual harassment, against Teti, according to documents related to the review obtained by SCNG.
The USOPC Office of Compliance commissioned Arent Fox, a Los Angeles-based law firm, in January to look into the allegations and the conditions in which America’s top rowers train and are selected to represent Team USA at the Olympic Games, World Championships and other major international competitions, according to documents related to the investigation.
“We are reaching out to you today because certain segments of US Rowing’s athlete population have raised concerns about the culture for elite athlete competitors which we believe warrants an outside perspective,” Onye Ikwuakor, USOPC associate general counsel, wrote in a letter to some current and former U.S. men’s national team members. “To that end, the USOPC has hired the law firm Arent Fox LLP to conduct an independent review and assessment to identify the root factors contributing to those concerns and determine how to address them.”
While the USOPC said there would not be time limitations placed on which allegations could be investigated and that the pursuit of “historical allegations … would be permitted,” the original scope of the review was limited to allegations related solely to US Rowing men’s national team program, according to documents related to the probe.
“We are limited to the assignment of focusing on US Rowing that we were given by the USOPC,” Jeffrey B. Weston, an Arent Fox attorney conducting the review, wrote in a March 10 letter to representatives of former Cal rowers. “However, if that should change, we will let you know.”
This week it did.
“If there are athletes from UC Berkeley’s rowing team during Coach Teti’s tenure that want to speak to us, please let us know,” Weston wrote in an email Tuesday to a representative of the Cal rowers.
Teti declined to address specific allegations Wednesday.
“As you know, the USOPC’s assessment to enhance a healthy culture for our elite athletes at US Rowing is underway,” Teti said in an email to SCNG. “I fully support the assessment and look forward to its outcome for the benefit of our athletes. While tempting to respond to the allegations in your e-mail, I must reserve comments for those conducting the assessment. In the meantime, we remain focused on preparing the men’s team for the best performance possible in Tokyo this summer.”
Cal did not respond to a request for comment. The USOPC said it is there policy not to comment on matters that are ongoing.
US Rowing is expected to have its sport-specific team and staff nomination pr”ocess for the Tokyo Olympic team completed in June. The USOPC will submit its Olympic team rosters to the IOC in late June or early July.
“I remain confident in US Rowing’s ability to support our men and women as they prepare tirelessly for the Tokyo Olympics,” Amanda Kraus, US Rowing’s CEO since last August, said. “This includes our coaches, support staff, and the system that surrounds them.”
Teti, 64, was a member of the bronze medal U.S. men’s eight boat at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. He was US Rowing’s men’s national team head coach from 1997 to 2008 and returned to the position in 2018 after spending a decade at Cal.
The Team USA men under Teti have won 29 Olympic or World Championship medals including the men’s eight gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
US Rowing in 2008 conducted an investigation of the men’s national team program following complaints about Teti. That report was not made public. USOPC officials confirmed this month that they have not been provided with the report, according to a document related to the investigation.
But Kraus said the 2008 report was provided to USOPC.
The U.S. Center for SafeSport later also conducted an investigation of Teti. That investigation was closed without and did not result in sanctions against him.
“I am aware of this report which did not find any wrongdoing on the part of Mike Teti or any other staff at US Rowing” Kraus said. “The contents of the report were shared with USOPC and the US Center for Safesport, neither of which concluded that it warranted any further action…There is no investigation specifically targeting Mike Teti. As the USOPC and Arent Fox made clear in their widely distributed communication about this independent assessment, it is a review genially of athlete needs and current practices of US Rowing. Any conclusions regarding the scope and outcome of the review have to await the outcome of the final report.”
The USOPC retained Arent Fox in January to “conduct an independent review and assessment to identify root factors contributing to feelings of distrust and concern expressed by certain segments of the athlete population and determine what is necessary within US Rowing to maintain and/or create a healthy culture so that its elite athletes can have successful rowing careers while maintaining their physical and mental wellbeing,” according to a letter from the law firm to US Rowing men’s national team members.
“The USOPC has asked Arent Fox to identify specific athlete needs compared to the current practices of US Rowing, and in that context to evaluate whether any US Rowing practices are inconsistent with its general duties and obligations as a National Governing Body, as set forth in the USOPC Bylaws,” the letter continued. “This review is being conducted with the full support and participation of US Rowing, and was prompted, in part, by US Rowing’s request for assistance in responding to athlete concerns regarding athletes’ ability to obtain impartial responses to complaints involving US Rowing personnel and practices.”
Specifically the review, according to the letter, will “center around the following:”
“1. The Olympic team selection process and how it works in practice, to evaluate its consistency with US Rowing’s Selection Procedures, and its fairness and accessibility to all competitors;
“2. The mental and physical health resources needed by elite athletes;
“3. US Rowing’s resource allocation practices to assess the extent to which US Rowing’s elite athletes are properly and fairly supported, in areas such as financial assistance, health insurance, etc.; and
“4. US Rowing’s high performance policies and practices to review whether elite athletes’ concerns are capable of being heard in a fair and neutral way, that does not contribute to a fear of retaliation.”
“Among the more than 50 allegations submitted to the USOPC in September were charges that Teti was aware of the sexual assault of a Cal female team member and pressured rowers on the men’s team not to discuss the incident and that he pressured rowers not to cooperate with an outside law firm hired by the university to investigate allegations of sexual abuse and harassment within the program
“A female former member of the Cal team told the Bay Area News Group in 2016 that Teti knew she had been sexually assaulted at a December 2013 team party. Teti, the woman told the paper, did not report the incident and instead told her to stop crying and that “you’re no angel anyway.” He also asked her about her sexual relationships with other rowers, the woman told the paper. Another woman said she quit the team because she was bullied and that the coaching staff was aware of a culture of abuse within the program, according to published reports.
“Teti told the Bay Area News Group that the “allegations are completely false and I’m confident any investigation will prove this.”
“Cal rowing team coaches and male athletes were later required to take training related to sexual violence and harassment, a university official said.
Source: Orange County Register
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