The U.S. Senate passed the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act this week, increasing oversight of sports organizations after years of high-profile sexual abuse scandals.
The Washington Post reports that the Senate unanimously passed the bill, which was introduced in the summer of 2019. The bill will now move to the House of Representatives.
The bill includes a number of reforms to Olympic and Paralympic sport organizations, and calls for increased funding to the U.S. Center for SafeSport. The Center for SafeSport was established in March of 2017 to investigate and prosecute misconduct within Olympic and Paralympic sports. It now keeps a publicly searchable database of individuals who have been disciplined for misconduct.
According to the Post, the bill makes several key changes to the operations of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC):
- Giving Congress the ability to dissolve the USOPC Board of Directors
- Giving Congress the ability to decertify specific sports governing bodies
- Calling for the USOPC to provide $20 million a year in funding to the U.S. Center for SafeSport
- In 2019, the USOPC contributed $7.5 million, and it has given $11.5 million so far this year, so the $20 million figure represents a significant increase
- Calling for an “oversight commission” to investigate both the USOPC and the 1978 Amateur Sports Act
- The 16-person commission would be congressionally appointed and would give a report to Congress
- Calling for more athlete representation in sport governing bodies
- Requiring the USOPC to conduct a yearly athlete survey and to make a report to Congress and the White House each year
The bill’s passage comes after a series of high-profile sexual abuse cases. The most notable was that of former U.S. Olympic gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, who was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison in 2018. Nassar pleaded guilty to sexually abusing athletes under the guise of medical treatment, and more than 150 women spoke during his court hearing, accusing him of sexual misconduct.