Reform Bill Passed Responding to Olympic Abuse Scandal


Joy Herrera, Staff Writer

Competitive gymnastics overtakes the world every four years. However, in 2016 the sport was in the news for a reason besides the Olympics. Larry Nassar, the team doctor for USA Gymnastics (USAG) and a professor at Michigan State University, was accused of sexual assault. In the following months more than 200 women came forward about the abuse they faced at the hands of Nassar. Among his victims were several Olympic athletes. For many within the sport and in the general public, this served as a wake-up call about the flaws of the sport and the systems that helped conceal Nassar’s abuse. According to Reuters, Nassar faces up to 300 years in federal prison.

This revelation caused an upheaval in the gymnastics industry as prominent figures like Simone Biles and Aly Raisman revealed the abuse they faced at the hands of Nassar and exposed the complicit culture of prominent gymnastics institutions. In the wake of an 18-month bipartisan investigation, Congress has taken action against further abuses of this kind by passing the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act.

The bill enables Congress to be able to dissolve the Board of Directors for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and decertify national governing bodies of sports if they fail young athletes. Furthermore, it establishes a commission to oversee these governing bodies. The bill also enumerates the penalties for not reporting the sexual abuse of athletes and prohibits retaliation towards athletes, coaches, or trainers for disclosing sexual assault. This portion of the bill works hand and hand with establishing more opportunities for athletes to share their stories and participate in these governing bodies through the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

“This law would not be possible were it not for the athletes and courageous survivors who traveled to Washington, shared their stories and demanded change so that future generations of athletes can train, compete and succeed without fear or abuse,” said the joint authors of the bill Senator Jerry Moran and Senator Richard Blumenthal.

This reform bill enables Congress to provide oversight that is meant to prevent tragedies like the ones involving Nassar from taking so long to uncover. They also serve the purpose of preventing the necessity for lawsuits and resignations that have plagued USAG and USOPC. This is the first step in changing the culture that allowed a predator to flourish unchecked for over ten years. More than just the punitive charges against the individual, this bill is meant to reform the system to ensure lasting systemic change to the benefit of athletes.


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