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U.S. Olympic Committee Put “Medals and Money” Over Preventing Sexual Abuse: Congressional Report

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A new congressional report castigates the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) for prioritizing winning and profits over protecting young athletes from child sexual predators. 

Last week, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee’s majority staff released the report, “Nassar and Beyond: A Review of the Olympic Community’s Efforts to Protect Athletes from Sexual Abuse” (PDF), which is billed as a year-long bipartisan investigation conducted in the wake of the reports that hundreds of female gymnasts were abused by former Olympic team physician Larry Nassar.

The committee’s investigation involved documents and interviews with USOC, Michigan State University, which employed Nassar, and all 48 National Governing Bodies (NGBs), which oversee each U.S. Olympic sport. The committee also indicates it spoke with dozens of abuse survivors, as well as advocates and others. Investigators found similar stories of a failing system, and said its findings should be of concern to Olympic athletes, amateur athletes and parents.

“Perhaps most troubling of the Committee’s findings is the culture within the Olympic community which prioritizes reputation and image, rather than athlete safety,” the report states. “The Committee heard from numerous athletes and other stakeholders about concerns that the Olympic community prioritized ‘medals and money’ at the expense of the safety and well-being of athletes.”

The report found that USOC had safety policies that required a review panel to consider the effects on the Olympic team’s reputation, and hesitated to cut groups and facilities where abuse had occurred because they were critical training facilities.

The committee also found that the policies concerning abuse were inconsistent across the different sports’ governing bodies, leading to differences in how and when background checks are conducted, the use of banned and suspended lists, whether incidents and banned lists are made public, and what offenses require banning, suspension or other actions.

The congressional report comes less than a month after similar findings were published by an independent investigation group hired by USOC. Those investigators reported that they found that Nassar was able to commit thousands of sexual assaults due to an environment that allowed his predatory nature to thrive.

USOC CEO Sara Hirshland issued a statement in response to the Energy and Commerce Committee report, highlighting statements in the report indicating that the Olympic committee has taken meaningful progress toward fixing the issues.

“While we’ve only just begun to digest the recommendations, this report adds another significant source of information to ensure we understand areas in which the Olympic community failed athletes and meaningful actions we can take to ensure that athlete safety is our number one priority,” Hirshland’s statement reads. “Sexual abuse, harassment and discrimination have no place in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic community, and it’s on all of us – member organizations, institutions, and individuals alike – to foster a healthy culture for competitive excellence.”

Court Documents Reveal Team Olympic Apathy Toward Sexual Abuse Complaints

Recent court documents indicate that former USA Gymnastics (USAG) President Kathy Scanlan said she told the committee of abuse issues during her term from 1994 to 1998, but very little action was taken.

Scanlan’s testimony claims that she published the names of USAG members who were fired due to suspicions of abuse in USA Gymnastics magazine when she got no help from the Olympic committee.

Bob Colarossi, who became USAG president after Scanlan, also said he tried to address problems and sent a letter to USOC in 1999, warning that the safety procedures to prevent abuse were inadequate.

USOC has officially filed a complaint seeking to remove USAG’s status as the governing group overseeing the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team.

Nassar will spend the rest of his life in jail, having received a federal sentence of 60 years on child pornography charges. He has also received two additional sentences; including one for 40 to 175 years, and another of 40 to 125 years from verdicts in two Michigan courts.

There have also been a number of sexual abuse lawsuits brought against USA Diving for alleged incidents of assault by coaches in that Olympic sport as well.

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