U.S. Olympic Sexual Abuse Investigation

As Chairman and Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security with jurisdiction over the health and safety of amateur athletes, Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) opened an investigation into USA Gymnastics (USAG), the US Olympic Committee (USOC) and Michigan State University (MSU) on January 25, 2018. The investigation is centered around the USOC’s systemic failures to protect athletes from sexual abuse and the reported filing of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to silence a victim of abuse in relation to the Larry Nassar abuse case.

Hearing #1: Olympic Abuse: The Role of National Governing Bodies in Protecting Our Athletes
On April 18, 2018, Chairman Moran and Ranking Member Blumenthal convened a hearing entitled, “Olympic Abuse: The Role of National Governing Bodies in Protecting Our Athletes” to provide a forum for survivors of abuse to discuss specific concerns and challenges in preventing abuse within their respective sports. Gymnast and Olympic Gold Medalist Jordyn Wieber, Gymnast and Olympic Bronze Medalist Jamie Dantzscher, Speedskater and Olympic hopeful Bridie Farrell and Figureskater Craig Maurizi testified.

Following the hearing, the senators released the following statement: “We are grateful to these athletes today who shared their experiences with our committee. There are systemic failings that need to be addressed, not just with admonitions but with meaningful reforms. This committee is committed to making change and determining which flaws exist in the system so that these athletes’ experiences are not replicated in anyone else’s life. We will continue to work with these athletes as our investigation progresses to make certain their testimonies are used to protect the next generation looking to achieve success representing our nation.” 

Hearing #2: Preventing Abuse in Olympic and Amateur Athletics: Ensuring a Safe and Secure Environment for Our Athletes
On June 5, 2018, Chairman Moran and Ranking Member Blumenthal chaired a hearing entitled “Preventing Abuse in Olympic and Amateur Athletics: Ensuring a Safe and Secure Environment for Our Athletes,” to focus on how past processes to protect our Olympic athletes from abuse have failed to keep athlete safe and to explore current efforts to provide a safe environment for amateur athletes. Witnesses included former USA Gymnastics Women’s Program Director Rhonda Faehn, former Michigan State University President Dr. Lou Anna Simon and former USA Gymnastics President Steve Penny, who exercised his Fifth Amendment rights and was subsequently dismissed from the hearing. Written testimonies were submitted by former United States Olympic Committee President Scott Blackmun and Karolyi Ranch’s Martha Karolyi.

Hearing #3
Chairman Moran and Ranking Member Blumenthal are currently planning their next subcommittee hearing. The focus of this hearing will be on current leadership at USOC, USAG and other NGBs regarding existing policies to prevent and report abuse and what changes need to be made to provide a safe environment for amateur athletes. More details will be provided as soon as they are available.

In light of these serious allegations, and pursuant to the Committee’s oversight responsibilities, Sens. Moran and Blumenthal posed the following questions to USOC and requested thorough responses on February 9, 2018.

  1. What reporting protocols for child and sexual abuse allegations are currently in place to ensure that all reports receive fair, timely, and thorough review by all appropriate parties, including law enforcement?
  2. Are there special accommodations to account for volunteers that are separately employed by non-NGB institutions, like MSU, in these reporting practices?
  3. In her lawsuit against USOC, USAG, and MSU, Ms. Maroney alleges that she was “coerced” into signing the NDA while under emotional duress from Dr. Nassar’s abuse. To the extent possible, please provide all details possible regarding the justification and circumstances surrounding Ms. Maroney’s NDA with USAG.
  4. Was USOC aware of the NDA?  If so, did it play a role in its inclusion in Ms. Maroney’s settlement agreement?
  5. Is it common practice by USOC and NGBs to utilize NDAs during investigations involving their organizations?
  6. Does USOC plan to take punitive action against USAG regarding its negligence to protect athletes from sexual abuse? 
  7. Is your organization aware of other such settlements between NGBs and Olympic athletes?
  8. What steps are being taken to prevent these atrocities from occurring again, whether in gymnastics or any other Olympic sport?
  9. In addition to answering these questions, please provide a detailed timeline of reports and ensuing action from your organization related to Dr. Nassar’s criminal conduct.
Alarming reports on February 2, 2018 revealed that two USOC executives were alerted of possible sexual misconduct by Nassar a full year before he was suspended from treating athletes – during which time he continued his abuse. USOC’s failures to protect these athletes led the senators to promptly broaden their investigation to include the remaining 53 National Governing Bodies (NGB).

On February 2, 2018 the senators broadened their investigation and questioned the remaining National Governing Bodies and USOC-affiliated amateur organizations, requesting information regarding whether all abuse reports receive fair, timely and thorough review by all appropriate parties, including by law enforcement.

On February 8, 2018, a former USA Swimming Olympian said she was sexually abused by a former USA Swimming coach. Prior to this disturbing report, the senators had probed USA Swimming on its reporting practices, and USA Swimming had confirmed receipt of the senators’ request. The senators requested a thorough response to their inquiry on or before Friday, February 16, 2018.

Sens. Moran and Blumenthal posed the following questions to National Governing Bodies and USOC-affiliated amateur organizations and requested thorough responses from each of these entities on or before Friday, February 16, 2018.

  1. What reporting protocols for child and sexual abuse allegations are currently in place to ensure that all reports receive fair, timely, and thorough review by all appropriate parties, including law enforcement?
  2. Are there special accommodations to account for volunteers that are separately employed by non-NGB institutions, like the case of Dr. Nassar who was employed by MSU, in these reporting practices?
  3. Has your organization ever utilized an NDA to enforce confidentiality against any athlete, volunteer, or employee in the past?  To the extent possible, please provide all details regarding the justification and circumstances surrounding every individual NDA used by your organization.
  4. Has your organization ever utilized additional binding agreements other than NDAs with athletes under your purview?  To the extent possible, please provide all details regarding the justification and circumstances surrounding every individual agreement used by your organization.
  5. Since the recent lawsuits filed against USOC, USAG, and MSU for organizational failures to investigate, discipline, or remove Dr. Nassar after complaints of sexual abuse, has you organization taken any additional steps to improve the transparency, efficiency, and effectiveness of its criminal misconduct reporting mechanisms?
  6. Please identify any circumstance in which USOC did not take any action following a report of criminal behavior from your organization.  To the extent possible, please provide all details regarding the justification and circumstances involved in USOC’s decision to not act.
  7. In 2017, USOC engaged with a third-party consultant to assess compliance with SafeSport policies and procedures within USOC and all of its NGBs and High Performance Management Organizations (HPMO).  Please describe the report issued for your organization, including any recommendations necessary for full compliance.  If additional recommendations were issued, what actions were taken by your organization?  Are there any remaining recommendations that your organization has yet to fully implement?

Responses received to date – responses requested on or before Friday, February 9, 2018:

United States Olympic Committee
USA Gymnastics
Michigan State University Cover Letter
Michigan State University

Responses received to date – responses requested on or before Friday, February 16, 2018:

USA Archery
USA Badminton
USA Baseball
USA Basketball
National Wheelchair Basketball Association
US Biathlon Asociation
USA Bobsled & Skeleton Federation
USA Boccia
US Bowling Congress
USA Boxing
American Canoe Association
USA Climbing
USA Curling
USA Cycling
USA Diving
US Equestrian Federation
USA Fencing
USA Field Hockey
US Figure Skating
Unites States Association of Blind Athletes
USA Golf
USA Hockey
USA Judo
USA National Karate-Do Federation
USA Luge
USA Pentathlon
USA Powerlifting
USA Racquetball
USA Roller Sports
US Rowing
USA Rugby
USA Wheelchair Rugby
US Sailing
USA Shooting
US Ski and Snowboard
US Soccer Federation
USA Softball
US Speedskating
US Squash
USA Surfing
USA Swimming
USA Synchronized Swimming
USA Table Tennis
USA Taekwondo
USA Team Handball
US Tennis Association
USA Track & Field
USA Triathlon
USA Volleyball
USA Water Polo
USA Water Ski
USA Weightlifting
USA Wrestling