Broad Olympic reform legislation, after unanimously passing in the House of Representatives Thursday, now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
The package was introduced by U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), chairman and ranking member of the U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee, which has authority and oversight of the health and safety of U.S. Olympic athletes.
“Today, the House passed our Olympic reform legislation advancing critical changes and effective safeguards to protect our Olympic, Paralympic, and amateur athletes,” Moran and Blumenthal wrote in a joint statement on Thursday. “Through the input and guidance of the courageous survivors—athletes who traveled to Washington shared their stories and demanded change—we were able to advance this legislation through Congress.”
The legislative package named the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act, was first unveiled in July of 2019 following an eighteen-month investigation into wide-ranging abuse within the U.S. Olympic body, in response to the Larry Nassar abuse case.
Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics national team doctor and professor at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
, is now a convicted rapist, accused of assaulting over 250 young women and girls. He is serving the equivalent of two life-sentences.
The Senators’ legislation was crafted after four subcommittee hearings in which interviews with Olympic athletes and survivors were conducted and over 70,000 pages of documents were reviewed.
Bronze medalist at the 2000 Olympics Jamie Dantzscher said this legislation will send a clear message to the Olympic leadership.
“It also sends a message to the leadership of the US Olympic Committee and the national governing bodies: Put the health and safety of athletes above money and medals or you will be held accountable,” said Dantzscher.
One of the legislation’s provisions codifies the rules for how adults must report the abuse of amateur athletes and prevents athletes from facing retaliation within the Olympic organization.
The bill also considerably increases athletes’ representation on Olympic governing boards.
In addition, the legislation proposes the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) provide $20 million to the SafeSport center.
The SafeSport Center is a nonprofit housed in Denver, Colorado. The center became authorized by the U.S. government under the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017.
According to the SafeSport website, “The law entrusts the Center as the exclusive authority to respond to reports of allegations of sexual abuse and sexual misconduct within the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee and their recognized National Governing Bodies.”
Another provision in the package promotes safety by requiring national governing bodies to enforce SafeSport sanctions and maintain records of barred coaches and any other individuals.
“We are grateful to our colleagues in the House who advocated for this bill, and we look forward to the president signing this legislation into law to institute and enforce these reforms so all athletes can participate in the sport they love without fear of abuse,” the Senators wrote.
Meanwhile, Sarah Hirshland, the CEO of the USOPC, wrote in a statement on Oct. 1 that Moran and Blumenthal’s legislation was a “big win” for team USA athletes.
The next Olympic events are scheduled to be held in the summer of 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.