U.S. Olympic Committee Board Chairman Larry Probst will step down at the end of the year and be replaced by board member Susanne Lyons, who until recently was the acting CEO, the USOC announced on Sept. 10.
Probst, 68, who became chairman in October 2008, recently oversaw the opening of the U.S. Center for SafeSport, an independent entity that aims to help the sports community to respond to incidents of abuse.
SafeSport was launched in the wake of USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar’s serial sexual abuse of gymnasts. Nassar is serving an effective life sentence for his crimes. Probst acknowledged that officials hadn’t done enough to protect the gymnasts.
“We failed our athletes,” he told reporters on a call. “I’m at the top of the food chain and so I take this very personally.”
“We have said on many occasions that we are very sorry for what happened and we’re very empathetic toward the survivors and we have to be laser-focused on athlete safety.”
In July, the USOC announced that Sarah Hirshland, chief commercial officer for the U.S. Golf Association, will be the first woman to serve as USOC’s permanent CEO after the departure of Scott Blackmun in February for health reasons.
Probst said it was “now time for a new generation of leaders to confront the challenges facing the organization, and I have the utmost confidence in Susanne’s and Sarah’s ability to do just that.”
Lyons said the new leadership hopes to foster a cultural change at the USOC that puts the emphasis squarely on the well-being of the athletes.
“We need to remind people that the athletes are the center of our world and the reason why we are here,” she said. “Sometimes perhaps we got caught up in the operations of the Games and sometimes maybe we lost sight of that fact.
By Rory Carroll