(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued the following statement after the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athlete Act was signed into law. Shaheen cosponsored the sweeping legislation that will reform the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) in the wake of abuse allegations that impacted nearly all corners of Olympic sport. The bill was introduced by U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and followed an eighteen-month investigation into systemic abuse within the U.S. Olympic movement.
Shaheen has led bipartisan efforts in Congress to hold the U.S. Olympic Committee accountable and protect the health and safety of American athletes. In February 2018, Shaheen introduced a resolution with U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) to establish a special committee in the Senate to investigate how the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and USA Gymnastics failed to stop USA Gymnastics coach Larry Nassar from sexually abusing female gymnasts over decades. In June 2018, during testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security, Senator Shaheen called on Congress to review USOC’s federal charter to provide more oversight and fair compensation to American athletes.
“This historic legislation is a testament to the brave survivors who stepped forward and courageously shared their stories to demand and enact change at the highest level. Because of their tireless work, this bill will improve accountability and transparency at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to make sure the system better protects U.S. athletes today the way it should have all along,” said Shaheen. “It is long past time for meaningful reform to confront the systemic problems that enabled this cycle of abuse against U.S. Olympic, Paralympic and amateur athletes. I’m glad Congress got this done and that it is now the law of the land. This is an important step forward, but our work to enact protections and seek justice for all survivors goes on.”
The bipartisan Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act:
- Empowers athletes by giving them a seat at the decision-making table, and significantly increases athlete representation on governing boards, committees and panels within National Governing Bodies (NBGs) and the USOPC to help identify problematic policies and practices faster, while prioritizing athlete-centric solutions;
- Bolsters resources for the U.S. Center for SafeSport while ensuring its independence from the USOPC and the NGBs;
- Requires relevant SafeSport training, so athletes know how to identify abuse, and so adults know how to prevent it;
- Strengthens and codifies reporting mandates for adults with knowledge of any allegation of child abuse of an amateur athlete;
- Protects individuals who report emotional, physical or sexual abuse of an athlete from retaliation within the Olympic movement;
- Promotes safety by requiring NGBs to enforce SafeSport sanctions and directing SafeSport to maintain a public list of all barred coaches and individuals;
- Bolsters USOC auditing and reporting requirements, so that Congress can better provide regular oversight; and
- Establishes legislative mechanisms by which Congress can dissolve the Board of the U.S. Olympic Committee and decertify NGBs.