Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) proposed legislation on Tuesday that aims to protect Olympic and amateur athletes, in the wake of the USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal involving former team doctor Larry Nassar.
The Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act is a bipartisan effort to give Congress more oversight and control over governing organizations in Olympic sports, such as the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics. Blumenthal and Moran announced the proposal in a press release to reporters.
“We have been incredibly moved by the courage of the survivors of abuse who have shared their stories with us and the world,” the senators said.
“We draw motivation from their unwavering commitment to work with us to prevent the abuse of any young athlete in the future and we thank them for putting their trust in us,” they continued. “We will get this bill across the finish line ― for them, and for all future athletes, so that they may be able to participate in the sport they love without fear of abuse.”
The legislation calls for a multi-pronged approach, including stricter reporting requirements for adults working in the amateur sports world. The bill would also require that more athletes be given spots on governing boards, and it would give more power to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is tasked with investigating accusations of misconduct by athletes and coaches. Lastly, the legislation would give Congress the ability to dissolve national governing boards like the USOC at any time.
Olympic gymnast and Nassar survivor McKayla Maroney urged Congress to pass the bill.
“Olympic athletes dream of standing on the podium and listening to our national anthem,” she said in a Tuesday press release. “We have the right to expect that our United States Olympic Committee will protect all athletes, especially children. This bill recognizes that USOC failed us and put child athletes at risk. Congress should pass this bill as soon as possible and hold the leadership of USOC accountable for their failures.”
The bill was announced in tandem with a congressional report, also published Tuesday, that found that USA Gymnastics, USOC and the FBI “fundamentally failed” to protect athletes from Nassar’s abuse. The report analyzes findings from an 18-month investigation by the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Manufacturing, Trade, and Consumer Protection. According to the report, the FBI, USOC and USAG were all alerted of Nassar’s abuse but did nothing for over a year.
“Terrible things happened,” Moran told NBC News. “In many instances they were reported and, almost without exception, the people that they were reported to didn’t respond.”
Blumenthal said that while a criminal cover-up “remains to be proven,” he believes this “was a cover-up in spirit.”
Nassar, who’s serving three concurrent life sentences for child sexual abuse, is accused of serially sexually abusing over 500 athletes, nearly all them young women, under the guise of medical treatment. During his 30-year tenure as a famed sports physician, he sexually abused hundreds of athletes while working for USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University and Twistars, a gym in East Lansing, Michigan.
“Larry Nassar... was far from a lone wolf,” Blumenthal told NBC News. “He was enabled by others and if they lied about it and if they obstructed the investigation, if they destroyed documents then they should be held accountable.”
Head over to USA Today to read Blumenthal and Moran’s full essay.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.