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Rick Westhead

TSN Senior Correspondent

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The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) has rejected an American think tank’s request to suspend Stan Bowman from his position as general manager of the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team while he faces allegations that he helped cover up the sexual abuse of two Chicago Blackhawks players.

In an email to TSN on Tuesday, USOPC spokesman Jon Mason wrote the U.S. Center for SafeSport is the appropriate organization to investigate allegations against Bowman.

“The U.S. Center for SafeSport was created as an independent organization dedicated to receiving and investigating reports of sexual misconduct and harassment, and emotional and physical abuse within the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movements,” Mason wrote. “The Center has the exclusive jurisdiction over participants, and to investigate and resolve allegations involving child abuse or sexual misconduct, including failure to report such allegations.”

Mason refused to say whether the USOPC would consult with the center for SafeSport about the request made on Sept. 10 by Marci Hamilton, founder of the advocacy group Child USA, to suspend Bowman from his position with USA Hockey.

“At this point, I’ll have to direct you to the center for any additional information,” Mason wrote.
Hamilton had asked the USOPC to commission an independent investigation into Bowman’s behaviour as GM of the Blackhawks.

In a text message to TSN on Wednesday, Hamilton wrote she is awaiting an official response to her request from USOPC.

“SafeSport doesn’t select the summer and winter Olympic coaches and SafeSport has an opaque, slow and ineffective system,” Hamilton wrote. “That’s USOPC once again avoiding its own responsibility for athlete safety and for the sex abuse that runs through athletics.”

Hamilton’s letter recounted allegations made against Bowman and his Blackhawks management colleagues in a pair of lawsuits filed earlier this year in Chicago against the team.

One lawsuit, filed by a former Blackhawks player referred to as “John Doe 1” in court documents, alleges that after the team’s management was informed that former video coach Brad Aldrich had allegedly sexually assaulted two players during the 2009-10 season, the team allowed him to remain employed through the end of that season, and refused to report the allegations to police.

A second lawsuit filed by a former high school hockey player in Houghton, Mich., who is referred to as “John Doe 2” in court documents, alleges that the Blackhawks gave Aldrich a positive job reference that allowed him to secure positions within the hockey department of Miami University in Ohio and later as a high school coach in Houghton, where in 2013 he was convicted of sexually assaulting the then-16-year-old player.

The U.S. Center for SafeSport is aware of the Blackhawks scandal. In June, an intake coordinator for SafeSport contacted a lawyer for John Does 1 and 2 to inform her that the centre had received a report concerning Bowman’s alleged misconduct that her client, the former Blackhawks player, may have witnessed, or personally experienced.

It’s unclear whether the centre has officially opened an investigation.

The Blackhawks have claimed in court documents that the team investigated the allegations and found them to be meritless. The team said in a court filing on Friday that the former Blackhawks player’s lawsuit should be dismissed because of limitation periods, The Chicago Sun-Times reported.

The Blackhawks also said the former high school player’s lawsuit should be dismissed because there was a lack of evidence to support the claim the team provided Aldrich with a job reference, The Sun-Times reported. The newspaper reported that the team has asked the former high school player’s attorney to withdraw that lawsuit.

With media scrutiny over the scandal increasing, the Blackhawks in June hired Chicago lawyer Reid Schar to look into the claims. The Blackhawks say the investigation is independent and that they will make Schar’s findings public. The National Hockey League has said it's awaiting the results of Schar’s investigation before taking any possible action.

“This investigation is not neutral,” Hamilton wrote in her letter to the USOPC. “A truly independent investigation cannot be funded by the organization whose executives reportedly covered up Aldrich’s abuse. Miami University has opened an internal investigation, but the scope is limited to the four months he was employed at the University.

“Bowman is still the general manager of the Blackhawks and earlier this year he was appointed as the general manager of the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team for the 2022 Beijing Games. How could Bowman, who has been publicly accused of covering up the abuse of a serial predator, be allowed to lead USA Hockey and represent our country at the international level?”

Hamilton’s three-page letter was also sent to U.S. senators Richard Blumenthal and Jerry Moran.

Blumenthal and Moran led an 18-month investigation into systemic abuse within the U.S. Olympic movement and advocated for the passage of the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act, which was passed in October 2020 and imposed reforms in the Olympic world, forcing more oversight of the coaches and executives who control the sports.

The act permits Congress to dissolve the board of directors of the Olympic committee and to decertify offending national governing bodies.