Congresswoman Jackie Speier Calls on USOC and USA Gymnastics to Fix Systemic Failures Compounding Sexual Abuse
WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14) on Thursday was joined by more than two dozen Members of Congress in a letter sent to Scott Blackmun, CEO of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), and Kerry Perry, President and & CEO of USA Gymnastics, demanding that their organizations take swift action to address a culture of impunity that has led to an epidemic of sexual misconduct, abuse, and exploitation of Olympic athletes.
“I, and so many others, have watched and listened in horror and sympathy as so many brave women have given voice to the years of abuse they suffered at the hands of Larry Nassar. But it’s clear that the blame for these horrendous acts extends beyond Nassar to those who protected him and who utterly failed in their duty to safeguard these athletes,” Rep. Speier said. “It’s long past time for elite sports to recognize and stop this rampant abuse and exploitation. I have been advocating for many of these reforms since 2015, after a wave of allegations against USA Swimming revealed systemic failures by national governing bodies to protect athletes.”
“While USA Gymnastics has since agreed to voluntarily incorporate certain reforms, the testimony at Nassar’s trial shows that there is such an overwhelming culture of abuse and impunity in the Olympic community that unenforceable promises are not enough. Anything less than a complete overhaul of reporting, tracking, and enforcement systems is an insult to the brave individuals who have come forward to spare their fellow athletes the same trauma and humiliation that they experienced. Inaction and reversion to the status quo is unacceptable in the eyes of Congress and the American public.”
In the letter, Rep. Speier and her colleagues called on Blackmun and Perry to implement and enforce a series of recommendations, including best practices to prevent and respond to sexual violence that were identified in a 2015 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requested by former Member of Congress George Miller and issued to Rep. Speier upon his retirement. These include:
- Requiring a clear timeline for immediate reporting of sexual abuse and misconduct as well as allegations of child abuse or neglect;
- Mandatory leave for individuals accused of sexual misconduct or abuse during the period of investigation;
- Implementation of fingerprint-based background checks;
- And establishment of a comprehensive training program for both staff and athletes, which must be mandatory and standard across all national governing bodies, as well as educational materials for parents and families
Additionally, Rep. Speier and her colleagues sought answers to questions based on previously agreed-upon improvements, oversight and enforcement of compliance, and the impact of new SafeSport policies. Those questions include:
- What progress USA Gymnastics has made on a number of reforms they agreed to implement last year?
- What oversight and enforcement mechanisms are in place to monitor compliance with USOC and SafeSport policies?
- And how many incidents have been reported to the Center for SafeSport and/or law enforcement since the mandatory reporting requirement was established?
A copy of the letter can be found here.