Congress passes legislation to protect Olympic athletes from sexual abuse

Jan 30 • 471 Views • View Comments

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Legislation sponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson establishes independent
entity to investigate alleged abuses and protect victims

The U.S. Senate today approved legislation to require amateur athletics governing bodies – such as USA Gymnastics and USA Swimming – to immediately report sexual abuse allegations to local or federal law enforcement, or a child-welfare agency designated by the U.S. Justice Department.

The legislation – sponsored by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) – is designed to ensure that aspiring U.S. Olympic athletes can report allegations of abuse to an independent entity to investigate, and to make sure that all national governing bodies follow the strictest standards to prevent and detect child abuse.

“The system failed these young women horribly,” Nelson said today in reference to the hundreds of female gymnasts and other Olympic and collegiate athletes who have reported being victims of sexual abuse. “USA Gymnastics failed them. The USOC failed them. Michigan State failed them. By putting new safeguards into law to protect athletes from abuse we’re sending a message that this cannot and must not happen again.”

Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over federally-chartered sports-related organizations like the U.S. Olympic Committee, filed the legislation last year in the wake of recent allegations of sexual abuse against personnel involved with USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming, USA Taekwondo, U.S. Speedskating, and USA Cycling.

Specifically, the bill amends the Ted Stevens Amateur and Olympic Sports Act to require Olympic amateur athletic governing bodies to establish rules and policies for their respective sports, including restricting one-on-one interactions between adults and children so that child predators, like Larry Nassar, can no longer exploit the system. The statute of limitations for such cases will also be extended under the bill to give victims of abuse more time to sue sex-crime perpetrators.

The bill, which was approved by the House earlier this week, now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

A copy of the bill is available here.


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