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Senators Will Push for Increased Oversight of Olympic Sports

SafeSport, an independent nonprofit organization, is charged with investigating and preventing sexual misconduct in Olympic sports, but it has acknowledged a backlog of cases because it is underfunded and understaffed.

The government, along with the Olympic committee, has played a role in the inadequacy of SafeSport. A three-year grant from the Justice Department, worth $2.2 million, is intended for education and prevention programs and cannot be used to reduce the case backlog or hire investigators, a spokesman for SafeSport said this year.

To ensure the independence of SafeSport, the Senate bill would prohibit officials employed by the Olympic committee or a national governing body from serving in the organization. SafeSport would also be required to report within 72 hours any attempt by the Olympic committee or a sports federation to interfere with the center’s work. SafeSport would also be required to publish a comprehensive, publicly-available list of people barred from Olympic sports for abusing athletes.

The Senate bill is also designed to give athletes a greater say by increasing their representation on the Olympic committee’s board of directors to one-third from one-fifth. The bill also requires that athletes comprise one-third of the governing structures of Olympic-related sports federations.

The Senate investigation follows a blistering report, commissioned by the Olympic committee and issued last December, that accused two of the highest-ranking United States Olympic officials of doing nothing to investigate, report or stop Dr. Nassar despite learning in 2015 that he had been accused of sexual abuse. That was a year before the accusations became public in a newspaper investigation by The Indianapolis Star.

One of those officials, Scott Blackmun, the Olympic committee’s chief executive, resigned under pressure in February 2018. Another official, Alan Ashley, the Olympic committee’s chief of sports performance, was fired in December 2018. That month, the searing report by the law firm Ropes and Gray found that failures by the Olympic committee to intervene in Dr. Nassar’s abuse helped create “an ecosystem that facilitated his criminal acts.”

Steve Penny, a former chief executive of U.S.A. Gymnastics, resigned in 2017 amid the sexual abuse scandal. He was arrested last October after being indicted on charges of tampering with evidence in the case. He has pleaded not guilty.

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