Last week, US senators Richard Blumenthal and Jerry Moran released a long awaited report investigating the actions of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and USA Gymnastics in response to a sexual abuse scandal. The investigation was centred around USOPC’s systemic failures to protect athletes from sexual abuse and the reported filing of a non-disclosure agreement to silence a victim of abuse in relation to the Larry Nassar abuse case.
Several hundred athletes and gymnasts have since come forward reporting they had been abused by Nassar, either while they were training at USA Gymnastics affiliated programs, or at Michigan State University, where Nassar held a faculty position before being dismissed in 2016. Nassar is now serving up to 175 years for criminal sexual assault.
The report found that “repeatedly, institutions failed to act aggressively to report wrongdoing to proper law enforcement agencies. Repeatedly, men and women entrusted with positions of power prioritized their own reputation or the reputation of an NGB (National Governing Body) over the health and safety of the athletes. Repeatedly, USOC and other NGBs took actions to conceal their negligence and failed to enact serious reforms, even after they were faced with the courageous accounts of survivors.”
Moran and Blumenthal have said that the investigation has led to a bipartisan bill that would grant Congress more authority to take action against the USOPC and the National Governing Bodies (NGBs) and hold them accountable for protecting the safety of athletes. Firstly, USOPC must give $20m a year to the US Center for SafeSport, the organization set up to stop the sexual abuse of young athletes. Secondly, Congress will grant itself power to dissolve the USOPC board and fire staff. Lawmakers could also shut down NGBs such as USA Gymnastics.
The bill does however have its critics. Some say that it does not adequately address “fear of retaliation and a lack of power balance between the elite athletes and the USOPC.” Others wonder where the money will come from and that it may involve cuts to training budgets or athlete programmes.
Written by David Milton at BLM