(Washington, DC) – The Senate unanimously passed the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athlete Act – sweeping Olympic reform legislation cosponsored by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) 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.
Companion legislation of the legislation has also been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
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 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 legislation would not have been possible without the brave survivors who shared their stories and created this sea change in our culture to demand justice, accountability and change,” said Shaheen. “This bill is an important step towards enacting long overdue safeguards that help protect the U.S. Olympic, Paralympic and amateur athletes who proudly represent our nation on the international stage. I urge the House of Representatives to pass this legislation as soon as possible and I’ll continue to work across the aisle to protect American athletes and deliver justice for survivors.”
Statements from Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Jordyn Wieber and Grace French:
“One person abused is too many. For years, USA Gymnastics and the USOPC tried to avoid responsibility for our abuse and put their own interests before those of athletes. They treated Larry Nassar like a PR problem, not a sexual abuse problem. USA Gymnastics and USOPC were happy to claim us when it benefited their bottom line, taking credit for medal performances and publishing ads with our photos, but not when we came forward to demand accountability for their culture of abuse. That stops now. After every major institution charged with athlete safety failed us, I am grateful to Senators Moran and Blumenthal for keeping their promise to bring real accountability to USOPC,” said Aly Raisman, captain of both the 2012 "Fierce Five" and 2016 "Final Five" U.S. women's Olympic gymnastics teams and a six-time Olympic medalist.
“When athletes dream of competing for their country, standing on the podium, listening to their national anthem, they don’t imagine they’d be forced to suffer years of sexual abuse to get there. Larry Nassar was an abusive monster, who preyed on thousands of young, vulnerable girls. He abused my trust, he abused my body, and he left scars on my psyche that may never go away. Equally disturbing is the fact that he couldn’t have gotten away with his crimes for as long as he did, if it were not for powerful institutions looking the other way, and enabling his abuse. For too long, the wrong people held all the power – now, it’s back in the hands of the athletes, where it belongs. This bill recognizes that USOC failed us, and put child athletes at risk. I am grateful to the Senate for passing this bill, and look forward to see the House of Representatives take the next step to hold the leadership of USOPC fully accountable for their failures,” said McKayla Maroney, a member of the U.S. women’s “Fierce Five” gymnastics team at the 2012 Summer Olympics, where she won a gold medal in the team and an individual silver medal in the vault event.
“The organizations whose job it was to protect us failed. They perpetuated a culture of abuse, neglect and a win-at-all-costs mentality, which harmed hundreds of survivors. On behalf of all members of Team USA, I thank Senators Moran and Blumenthal for listening to the voices of survivors and taking bold action to hold USOPC accountable for their failure to protect athletes from physical, emotional and sexual abuse,” said Jordyn Wieber, an Olympic gold medalist and member of the U.S. women’s “Fierce Five” Olympic gymnastics team.
“The last few years of scandals in athletics have shown us only the tip of the iceberg of abuse in sport. A massive cultural upending still needs to take place in our Olympic Movement, to put athlete-welfare first, well ahead of medals, money, or clout. Cultural change can come from the governance changes that are embedded in Senate Bill 2330. The three years of work that have gone into this legislation, and the support from those inside the Olympic Movement - over 1,000 Olympians, Paralympians, elite athletes, survivors, coaches, organizations and supporters - show us how desperately reform is needed. Senator Moran and Blumenthal’s legislative efforts will be the start to a much-needed cultural upending, that will better protect and serve our nation's athletes,” said Grace French, survivor and Founder and President of the Army of Survivors.
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.