The U.S. Center for SafeSports has seen a 55% increase in reports of abuse and misconduct so far in 2019 compared to last year, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
The increase is sparking debates over who should supply the organization’s funding. The program received $1.3 million in additional funds from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee this week; the USOPC has now contributed $7.4 million in 2019, according to the AP.
National governing bodies for individual sports, like USA Swimming, have contributed a combined $2.05 million this year. Combined with other donations and a federal government grant of $2.2 million – spread over three years and not allowed for use in investigations – the Center for SafeSport will work with $10.05 million this year.
The organization is currently fielding 239 reports per month, up from an average of 154 per month last year. According to the AP, its 18 investigators and lawyers, and their staff of 37, currently have 1,290 open cases and 2,237 closed. To keep up, the organization will need to double its staff next year and triple it by 2023, it projects.
An independent consultant hired by the center also projects the number of reports will continue to rise until it hits about 8,000 per year, a 667 per month average.
USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland has been lobbying for government money, but that alone won’t solve the budget needs: “I think it’s an ‘And’ question, not an ‘Or’ question,” she said.
Some leaders are pointing to the model that funds the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency as an option. USADA received $9 million of its $21 million in 2018 from government, just over $5 million from USOPC, and nearly $7 million from “testing and other services,” according to the AP.
“I think that makes sense, because we’re addressing societal issue, and government’s authority to protect and serve fits in really well in that area,” Max Cobb, the CEO of U.S. Biathlon who leads the NGB Council, said.
The Center for SafeSport is somewhat wary of government money, however, because of the red tape surrounding the use of the $2.2 million it already received.
“The USOPC and the NGBs must be invested in changing their sport culture, which means they must invest in the center,” CEO Ju’Riese Colon said. “While I appreciate people connecting us [to USADA] because we’re certainly similar, the job and scope is so different, and I think the funding is going to have to be a lot different.”
It’s worth noting, however, that the U.S. Department of Justice is currently investigating several U.S. Olympic sport organizations over sexual abuse and “potential financial and business misconduct,” according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
The same independent consultant that projects the steep rise in reported also suggested the center could use $35 million in 2020, but the center is first hoping to just use USOPC and NGB donations increase next year’s pudget to $16 million.