USOC says sex-trafficking lawsuit not about justice

DENVER -- A U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman is portraying a sex-trafficking lawsuit filed against the federation as one "calculated to provoke and offend" rather than seek justice.

Last week, four taekwondo athletes sued the USOC and USA Taekwondo, alleging they allowed athletes to train and compete with "known predator coaches." They listed two-time gold medalist Steven Lopez and his brother, Jean, in the lawsuit. Both are under investigation by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, and Steven Lopez has been temporarily suspended.

Jean Lopez is appealing a pair of violations for sexual misconduct that resulted in a permanent ban; one of the cases involved a minor.

USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said that while criticism of the case does not extend to the athletes who are suing, the complaint "appears to be a cynical attempt by counsel to subvert important protective laws with the goal of sensationalizing this case."

Recently, Martha and Bela Karolyi sued the USOC seeking damages for the canceled sale of their famed Texas training center -- a transaction that tanked in the wake of sex-abuse cases involving team doctor Larry Nassar.

Later this month, leaders of the USOC and several national governing bodies will appear in front of Congress, where they will likely be asked to explain the opaque nature of the relationships the USOC has with NGBs -- relationships that are not fully understood by the general public, by lawmakers attempting to grasp the problem or, often, even by the athletes and administrators who serve as their lifeblood.

The U.S. Center for SafeSport opened in 2017 and is in charge of investigating sexual misconduct cases in Olympic sports, taking the responsibility away from the NGBs.