In the News

Topeka Capital-Journal
Editoral Advisory Board

Olympians are our nation’s strongest and most talented athletes, but their abilities do not make them invulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

A recently completed Senate investigation revealed a disturbing picture of Olympic sports, exploring a United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and U.S.A. Gymnastics culture in which “alarming and dysfunctional systems” failed to protect vulnerable athletes from abuse.

The Senate investigation was held in the wake of a sexual abuse scandal in which hundreds of women disclosed sexual abuse at the hands of a former gymnastics team doctor. An independent report commissioned by the Olympic committee and released last December found the FBI, the Olympic committee and U.S.A. Gymnastics knew of the doctor’s abuse for over a year and did nothing to stop it.

In response, Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., introduced the Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2019 in recent days to provide more support for abuse prevention and hold the bodies that govern Olympic sports more accountable.

“We have been moved by the incredible courage of the survivors of abuse who have shared their stories with us and the world. We draw strength and motivation from their unwavering commitment to work with Congress to prevent the abuse of any young athlete in the future, and thank them for putting their trust in us,” the senators said in a statement.

The bill has multiple facets. It institutes new reporting requirements for all adults working with amateur athletes. Athletes would get a greater voice within the Olympic committee with more representation in leadership positions. The bill requires the Olympic committee to pay the independent nonprofit U.S. Center for SafeSport $20 million annually to investigate and prevent abuse, a significant funding increase for the organization.

The legislation would also allow Congress to dissolve the Olympic committee at any time if the committee is not acting appropriately.

The bill addresses many of the concerns detailed in Senate investigation, which analyzed documents, held public hearings and subpoenaed leaders over the course of 18 months. Senators found “institutions failed to act aggressively to report wrongdoing to proper law enforcement agencies” and that a “lack of oversight and transparency” led directly to the failure to stop abuse of athletes. Strict reporting standards and accountability would go a long way towards ensuring abuse allegations are taken seriously and investigated quickly.

The bill is one part of an important effort to ensure vulnerable children and adults are protected from abuse and exploitation from the very adults who are trusted with helping them grow into well-rounded athletes. Moran’s efforts on this bipartisan legislation are commendable.

View the full article here.