A Wake-Up Call for US Olympic Governing Bodies


Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, announced on a recent CBS “60 Minutes” segment that she is crafting a bill that would establish clear protocol and require amateur athletics governing bodies, the organizations responsible for overseeing amateur sports nationwide, to contact authorities immediately upon receiving a complaint of abuse.

“If an amateur athletic association, like USA Gymnastics, receives a complaint, an allegation – they must report it right away to local police and the US attorney,” she said.

Earlier, Sen. Feinstein had met with at least three former gymnasts who said they had been sexually abused by Dr. Larry Nassar, longtime team doctor for USA Gymnastics who now faces accusations from dozens of gymnasts who were under his care.

Dr. Nassar, who was arrested in November 2016 on charges of sexually assaulting a child in Michigan, was later indicted on federal charges of possession of child pornography. USA Gymnastics had fired him in July 2015 after conducting its own investigation. The organization’s board chairman Paul Parilla and CEO Steve Penny issued a statement saying they were appalled that anyone would exploit a young athlete or child, and that “we are determined to strengthen standards throughout the sport.”

If Senator Feinstein is successful in getting her bill through Congress and signed into law, it would have broad implications for the 47 national governing bodies under the umbrella of the US Olympic Committee.

Leaders of these governing bodies have an opportunity now to get ahead of the pending legislation. They could establish comprehensive, effective integrity and compliance programs, covering not just concerns over sexual abuse but for all areas of risk, thereby negating the need for federal legislation. Almost any industry leader would agree that voluntarily developing standards for preventing wrongdoing is preferable to being told what needs to be done by the federal government.


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