Politics

Senators Call for Special Committee to Investigate Olympic Abuse

Bipartisan group of 18 senators unveils resolution

From left, Sens. Tim Scott of South Carolina, Joni Ernst of Iowa and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire conduct a news conference Wednesday to announce a bipartisan resolution to form a Senate committee to investigate USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Two days ahead of the opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics, a bipartisan group of senators is trying to set up a special committee to investigate the U.S. Olympic Committee.

The 18 senators, led by Republican Joni Ernst of Iowa and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, unveiled their resolution Wednesday.

“We are introducing this bipartisan resolution to establish a special committee entirely focused on investigating how this abuse was allowed to go on for decades, why leaders of the USOC and USA Gymnastics failed to protect these women, and the path forward to put an end to this type of outrageous abuse,” Ernst said. “Now Congress has an opportunity to stand up for the brave survivors who came forward, for our athletes, for our children. I am proud to stand with Senator Shaheen and our colleagues to fight to stop this abuse once and for all.”

Congress has already acted to clear legislation designed to impose new reporting requirements on organizations under the USOC umbrella, but the resolution would promote a broader Senate investigation.

The resolution would set up a panel of four members from each party appointed by leadership, with subpoena power but not legislative authority. At least half the membership would have to be female.

Both the Senate Judiciary and Commerce, Science and Transportation Committees have been conducting their own reviews of the USOC and related organizations. The latter generally has lead jurisdiction with respect to Olympic and amateur sports.

More than 250 women have come forward to accuse former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State doctor Larry Nassar of sexual assault, going back decades. Nassar has been sentenced by two Michigan counties to up to 175 years in prison. He is already serving a 60-year federal sentence on child pornography charges.

“There are many disturbing questions that remain unanswered as to how Larry Nassar was able to freely abuse young girls for decades. Because the U.S. Olympic Committee operates under a federal charter and its athletes compete under the American flag, the Senate has a responsibility to deliver answers and accountability,” Shaheen said.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that two high-ranking USOC officials were informed of the sexual assault allegations against Nassar in 2015 — a year before they were made public — but failed to act.

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