A former top medical officer for the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) filed a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit against the organization on Wednesday, alleging he was fired for questioning how executives handled reports of abuse and mental health concerns.
Dr. William (Bill) Moreau was with the organization for 10 years and was fired in May 2019 following five years as the vice president of sports medicine. He voiced concern about former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University Dr. Larry Nassar treating athletes at the 2012 London Olympics.
Top USOPC doctor files retaliation lawsuit
Moreau’s lawsuit was filed in the district court for the city and county of Denver and alleges he was dismissed after repeatedly questioning the organization’s handling of reports.
"Frankly, what I'm really worried about is, what if another kid gets raped and I didn't say something? What if another athlete kills himself and I didn't say something? Somebody has got to get the USOPC's attention to start listening and not breaking the law," Moreau said about the lawsuit, via ESPN.
He told the Denver Post he was hoping to “give a voice to the athletes” who were impacted and hopefully make people pay attention to the issue by shining light on it. He called it a “lonely battle” to bring awareness about the issues.
Lawsuit: USOPC ignored allegations of rape, suicidal thoughts
The allegations include, via ESPN and the Post:
In 2018, a track coach reported to Moreau that a 15-year-old female Paralympic athlete was raped by a 20-year-old male athlete. The girl was having suicidal thoughts, per the lawsuit. But USOPC executives mishandled it as did the U.S. Center for Safe Sport and decided a crime was not committed. By law, a 15-year-old cannot consent to sex.
In January 2019, a male strength and conditioning coach was spotted naked near a sauna by a female athletic trainer at the Colorado Springs training center. The under-18 women’s gymnastics team was training there at the time, but USOPC failed to dismiss the coach, Moreau said.
In February 2019, Moreau said he urged leaders to help an athlete who had attempted suicide and had stopped attending follow-up care. He argued the athlete needed care beyond the internal professionals who he said were not equipped to deal with the crisis. USOPC, he said, planned to form a committee and talk about helping the athlete, he said. The athlete died by suicide the following day, per the suit. ESPN reported the athlete was Kelly Caitlin, a member of the cycling team who died at age 23. She won silver in 2016 and was a three-time world champion.
Moreau warned executives of Nassar in 2012 and told the doctor he shouldn’t be treating girls one-on-one in an off-site location but rather at the central medical facility, according to an independent report by the Ropes & Gray law firm in 2018. When he later learned hundreds of athletes had been abused by Nassar, including Olympic champions, he said he was “crushed.” Nassar is currently serving what is essentially a lifetime sentence in jail.
Moreau is seeking unspecified relief, per the Post.
USOPC: lawsuit ‘misrepresent’ reason for firing
The committee said in a statement to the Denver Post it had not yet been served the lawsuit and is reviewing the complaint. Via the Post:
“We regret that Dr. Moreau and his attorney have misrepresented the causes of his separation from the USOPC,” Luella Chavez D’Angelo, the Olympic Committee’s chief marketing and communications officer, said in the statement. “We will honor their decision to see this matter through in the courts, and we won’t comment on the specifics as that goes forward.”
Moreau said he was told of his firing on May 13, 2019, by chief of high performance, Rick Adams, and human resources, per ESPN. He was told the organization wanted someone with "a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree rather than a Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) degree,"per the lawsuit.
The USOPC has been rocked by a sexual abuse scandal for years that started with the Nassar revelations in gymnastics but is widespread. The organization has announced a five-year plan to improve life for athletes, re-written bylaws and internal operations, and last month announced a deal to fund professional staff to help the athletes council.
The U.S. Senate and Department of Justice have been investigating the organization for its handling of sexual abuse allegations. A Senate bill was introduced in July 2019 to hold the USOPC to stricter legal liability.
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