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Athlete Safety At The Forefront Of U.S. Olympic Committee Mission

By Karen Price | April 18, 2018, 10:48 p.m. (ET)

A general view as flag bearer Erin Hamlin leads the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team into the Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 on Feb. 9, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.


Improving athlete safety was chief among the topics discussed during the United States Olympic Committee board of directors meeting on Wednesday in Los Angeles.

The board heard a presentation from U.S. Center for Safe Sport CEO Shellie Pfohl as well as the organization’s board president, Frank Marshall, and asked “many, many questions,” chairman Larry Probst said. The USOC also spent two hours discussing the athlete safety action plan that USOC Acting CEO Susanne Lyons and her team have developed and are now implementing.

“This is the plan we put together based on lessons we’ve already learned and all the information we’ve heard so far following the Larry Nassar situation,” Lyons said. “We’ve broken it into immediate-term plans and longer-term plans and some of the things that really need to be done across all organizations that make up the Olympic movement.”

Some of the steps the USOC has taken already, Lyons said, include doubling its funding for the U.S. Center for Safe Sport, providing funding for support and counseling for abuse victims, reaching out to athletes and former athletes to get their feedback on what needs to be done, working to ensure that athletes have a greater voice within the USOC, and looking at current safe sport procedures and enlisting outside expertise to examine where the current safeguards may fall short and need improvement.

Lyons was in Washington, D.C., attending the U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on the role of National Governing Bodies in protecting athletes.

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“We thought it was important to be here and listen and learn,” she said. “A lot of themes are emerging on how this was able to happen.”

Probst said in meeting with representatives of the U.S. Center for Safe Sport that the USOC board encouraged the center to move quickly to add additional resources needed to be fully functional and more responsive to people reporting abuse.

“To summarize, Shellie gave an update on where they are and what they need to do going forward,” he said. “Our encouragement to them was, ‘Go faster.’ We recently doubled our commitment to the Center for Safe Sport so that they’ve got plenty of money to move forward and put resources in place.”

Other topics discussed during the board meeting included finances, the search for a permanent CEO, performances at the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, and an update on progress from the LA 2028 team.

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.