Domestic violence, abuse top concerns facing USOC chief

Fri Sep 26, 2014 9:36pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Of all the issues facing the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), the one that gives chief executive officer Scott Blackmun the greatest concern is making sure sport is free from domestic abuse and other violence.

Domestic violence has become the hot-button issue in American sport following a rash of high-profile incidents involving National Football League players and another case that has landed close to home for the USOC involving Hope Solo, the decorated goalkeeper of the U.S. national women's soccer team.

Sexual abuse and domestic violence is not unfamiliar territory for the USOC.

Last year U.S. Speedskating reached a settlement with a group of skaters who claimed they were physically and emotionally abused by a coach while USA Swimming has for years been rocked by child and sexual abuse scandals.

Solo, an Olympic double gold medalist, faces a November trial on domestic violence charges but has remained in the national squad, a decision that has pulled her sport into the domestic abuse storm that has engulfed the NFL where players have been suspended until their cases are heard.

In June, the USOC announced the formation of SafeSport, an independent agency that would provide athletes a place to report misconduct without fear of reprisal.

"SafeSport gives me pause," admitted Blackmun during a press briefing following the USOC's general assembly on Friday. "Everything that we have seen in recent weeks is really just a microcosm of what is happening out in society generally.

"There is an issue with abuse in society and there is an issue of abuse in sport and in many cases the opportunities for abuse in sport exists because of that coach-athlete relationship   Continued...