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A former top medical official with the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee is making stark allegations about the organization’s handling of mental health. Dr. Bill Moreau alleges he was let go last May, partly in retaliation for his complaints about the issue, which former Olympians like Michael Phelps have been outspoken about.
Moreau has since filed a lawsuit, saying he was wrongfully terminated.
Phelps says the USOPC should have done more to address mental health, telling the Washington Post, “I don’t know of anything they’ve done to help us mental health-wise.” The athlete is siding with Moreau, a chiropractor who worked inside the USOPC for 10 years. He gave his first TV interview to CBS News.
“Michael Phelps is exactly right. And people need to start listening to what he’s saying about mental health,” Moreau said.
He told CBS News one reason he was fired was retaliation for complaining about how the organization handles serious mental illness.
“You know, these Olympic and Paralympic athletes. They’re the sons and daughters of the United States. We love to say they’re like the person next door. It’s because they are. They suffer from mental health problems like everybody else,” Moreau said.
He was alarmed at what he said was the organization’s slow response to an athlete in crisis, Olympic medalist Kelly Catlin. In 2019, while on medical leave from cycling, she took her own life.
“If you have suicidal ideation, you need to be under the care of a psychiatrist,” Moreau said.
But Moreau said the USOPC’s approach has been more appropriate for a sports injury than a psychiatric emergency.
“We’re trying to become experts in the management of serious mental health illness. And that’s not what we do. If you have suicidal ideation, you need to be under the care of a psychiatrist,” Moreau said.
On March 8, 2019, Catlin took her own life. Her death spurred Moreau to send a memo to USOPC leadership about what he said was an ongoing problem. He says they address athlete mental health issues using staff who are experts in sports performance, not psychiatry. He said it’s “a dangerous pathway to follow.” But Moreau said he got no response. Catlin’s father said he doesn’t know if more help from the Olympic Committee could have saved Catlin’s life.
Olympic champion swimmer Allison Schmitt, who has battled depression for years, tweeted that Catlin’s death “breaks my heart.” She said she’s still struggling and the USOPC is not providing her with adequate mental health support.
“There’s lives out there that have been lost because there’s no change made and it’s very frustrating,” Schmitt said.
Moreau said the USOPC is still focused on money and medals.
“They need to take that same investment and put it into the protection of the athletes’ health and welfare,” he said.
The USOPC did not respond to request for an interview. But it said in a letter to its athletes last week, “in the cases Bill Moreau uses as examples against us, we acted appropriately, expeditiously and in the best interest of the athletes.”