The U.S. Olympic Committee is trying to remove itself as a defendant in lawsuits by gold medalists McKayla Maroney, Jordyn Wieber and Aly Raisman, three of the gymnasts who sued the federation and others for their roles in the Larry Nassar sex-abuse scandal.
In court papers filed last Friday, the USOC acknowledges it is "appropriately" part of "discussions concerning moral and social responsibility for sexual abuse, including legitimate questions about what could have been done to recognize and stop Nassar's abuse."
But, the motions say, there are no legal grounds to sue the USOC because Nassar never worked for the federation, nor were Nassar's crimes foreseeable by the USOC.
USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky lauded the fortitude of the victims and reiterated some of his group's efforts in response to the scandal — the opening of the U.S. Center for SafeSport and an investigation into what the USOC knew about the crimes and how it reacted.
"Our filing addresses an entirely different question, namely the legal responsibility for Nassar's crimes," Sandusky said.
Nassar, who is in prison for assault and child pornography crimes, was a volunteer for USA Gymnastics, which is also named as a defendant in several of the lawsuits.
The gymnasts contend the USOC, as an umbrella organization that oversees USA Gymnastics, should have done more when it learned of the abuse.
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The USOC filed motions to dismiss itself as the defendant in six lawsuits overall, three of which were filed by plaintiffs identified as Jane Doe.
The USOC acknowledges there is "no debate regarding the harm Nassar caused," or the plaintiffs' "courage and strength in responding to his crimes."
At issue in these motions is the murky relationship between the USOC and the national governing bodies — the organizations that run the individual Olympic sports. Those organizations receive funding and guidance from the USOC.
The USOC has ultimate authority to certify them, but it has little to do with their day-to-day operations, hirings or training methods. The USOC is now looking into redefining its relationship with the NGBs.
On Tuesday, the USOC's interim CEO, Susanne Lyons, will appear before a Senate subcommittee to discuss changes the USOC has made since Nassar's abuse was uncovered.
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