Whistleblower Suit Filed Against U.S. Olympic And Paralympic Committee
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Just a warning, we're going to be talking about sexual abuse for the next few minutes. A former high-ranking official at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee says he was fired last year for raising concerns about continuing abuse of Olympic athletes. His name is Dr. Bill Moreau, and he filed a whistleblower lawsuit this week.
He says the USOPC is still not doing enough to protect athletes even though it has been more than three years since the sexual abuse scandal broke that involved former Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
NPR's Tom Goldman reports.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Bill Moreau was the vice president for sports medicine at the USOPC for 10 years. He says, in the aftermath of the Larry Nassar scandal, it was clear change had to happen at the organization, but it wasn't happening fast enough.
BILL MOREAU: And I decided that if I don't become part of the solution, that I'm actually part of the problem.
GOLDMAN: Being part of the solution meant reporting potential abuse and wrongdoing. The lawsuit details what he says he found. There was the 2018 incident of statutory rape involving a 15-year-old female Paralympic athlete. She was competing in Iowa, but not accompanied by an adult.
She was staying in a hotel by herself, and one night had sex with an older male athlete. A coach told Moreau, afterwards, she was depressed to the point of being suicidal. Moreau says USOPC officials filed a report, but didn't say a crime occurred.
MOREAU: It didn't take me two minutes - I did a Google search for statutory rape in the state of Iowa and found out that she's not old enough to give consent. And as a result of that, I forced them to switch it and change that report so it reflected a crime had been committed.
GOLDMAN: Another incident in 2019 involved a male strength coach who was spotted naked in a sauna in a public area at a USOPC training center. A female youth gymnastics team was in the same building at the same time. Moreau says he was amazed the coach was only given a verbal reprimand instead of being fired.
MOREAU: You'd think that the USOPC would have a hair trigger on responding to anything having to do with sexual abuse or sexual impropriety.
GOLDMAN: Moreau's lawsuit also says USOPC officials weren't doing enough to deal with athletes' mental health. He said as much last year in an email to higher-ups. But by then, communications were dropping off because he says he was raising hell about the need for better athlete care.
MOREAU: I didn't even get a reply to that email. In fact, I think in my last paragraph, I told them - I was like, if you're sick of hearing from me, you need to let me know.
GOLDMAN: Two months later, Moreau was fired. The USOPC said it wanted a medical doctor to lead sports medicine. Moreau is a chiropractor by training. He says after his firing, the USOPC promoted to his former position another chiropractor. The USOPC didn't provide anyone for an interview, but released a statement saying, in part, we regret that Dr. Moreau and his attorney have misrepresented the causes of his separation from the USOPC. We will honor their decision to see this matter through in the courts.
I spoke with Moreau yesterday at the airport in Portland, Ore. He was heading back to Colorado Springs, home of the USOPC, where he used to work. His lawsuit seeks a jury trial and damages. And he hopes the suit brings to light what he tried to do.
MOREAU: If another kid is raped or another athlete takes their life and I didn't go to the mat and do everything I could to force change, that's something I'd have to live with the rest of my life.
GOLDMAN: After I turned off my recorder, Moreau started to cry. I should have done more, he said.
Tom Goldman, NPR News, Portland.
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