As New Head of U.S.O.C., Sarah Hirshland 'Has Much Work to Do'

By: Jere Longman, Juliet Macur and Victor Mather

The United States Olympic Committee hired a new chief executive on Thursday and will now try to restore its credibility in the aftermath of heavy criticism regarding its lack of protection of athletes in the Nassar gymnastics sex abuse case.

Sarah Hirshland, an executive with the United States Golf Association, was named as the U.S.O.C.’s new leader, replacing Scott Blackmun, who resigned under mounting pressure in February.

Senator Joni Ernst, Republican of Iowa, who at a recent hearing described the Olympic culture as one that “prioritizes winning medals over the health and welfare of the athletes,” said in an emailed statement on Thursday that the U.S.O.C. must change its culture and that Ms. Hirshland was on the clock to do so.

“The new C.E.O. has much work to do to ensure that athletes are the priority and that trust is rebuilt with those athletes as well as the American people,” Senator Ernst said. 


Ms. Hirshland said Thursday that she did not yet have “enough insight” to structure a plan that would improve the relationship between the U.S.O.C. and the sports’ national governing bodies. Many of Dr. Nassar’s victims have said that relationship helped foster a dangerous culture of silence within Olympic sports.

The U.S.O.C.’s stance has been to let the governing bodies run themselves and for the Olympic committee to remain at a distance except just before and during the Winter and Summer Games.

The committee has defended its actions in the Nassar case, saying it followed proper procedures and deferred to law enforcement. But The New York Times identified at least 40 girls and women who said that Dr. Nassar molested them between July 2015, when he first came under F.B.I. scrutiny, and September 2016, when the allegations were reported by The Indianapolis Star.

The measuring stick for Ms. Hirshland will be her most likely be her ability to turn the U.S.O.C. into a more vigilant and proactive organization.

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