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Bipartisan E&C Leaders Remind the Olympic Community of its Legal Obligations to Report Allegations of Sexual Abuse

Dec 1, 2021
Press Release
The Committee’s Letters Follow Troubling Information that USA Badminton May Have Failed to Report Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse, Discouraged Others from Reporting the Allegations, and May Be Obstructing an Investigation

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Ranking Member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Morgan Griffith (R-VA), wrote to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and all National Governing Bodies (NGB) of organized sports to remind them of their obligations to comply with federal laws requiring them to report allegations of sexual abuse. The letters come in response to troubling allegations of failures by USA Badminton to comply with its obligations as an NGB.  

“To protect our athletes and ensure the future success of sport, the USOPC and all NGBs must comply with all applicable federal laws when it comes to reporting allegations of sexual abuse to both law enforcement and the U.S. Center for SafeSport,” the bipartisan Committee leaders wrote. “It is imperative that the USOPC and NGBs continue to be proactive in ensuring that their policies and procedures prioritize athlete safety and are consistent, followed, and enforced.”   

The Energy and Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over domestic and international sport and has played a key role in investigating past reports of abuse in sports and enacting laws to protect athletes from sexual abuse.  

In 2018, Congress passed the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act, which requires adult sports officials to report evidence of child abuse, including sexual abuse, within 24 hours. Last year, Congress passed the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act of 2020, which states that NGBs “shall not interfere in, or attempt to influence the outcome of, an investigation,” and requires the U.S. Center for SafeSport to report to certain congressional committees, including the Energy and Commerce Committee, within 72 hours of an attempt to interfere in, or influence the outcome of, an investigation. 

“We applaud the Olympic community for the reforms that have been made to date,” the Committee leaders continued. “However, it has recently been brought to our attention that officials at USA Badminton may have failed to report allegations of child sexual abuse, discouraged others from reporting these allegations, and may be obstructing an investigation into those allegations undertaken by the U.S. Center for SafeSport. If true, this is unacceptable, deeply troubling, and a violation of federal law.” 

The Committee leaders wrote to the following organizations:  

American Canoe Association 

Lakeshore Foundation 

National Wheelchair Basketball Association 

U.S. Biathlon Association 

U.S. Figure Skating 

U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee 

U.S. Ski & Snowboard 

U.S. Soccer Federation 

U.S. Speedskating 

U.S. Squash 

U.S.A. Archery 

U.S.A. Artistic Swimming 

U.S.A. Badminton 

U.S.A. Baseball 

U.S.A. Basketball 

U.S.A. Boxing 

U.S.A. Climbing 

U.S.A. Cycling 

U.S.A. Diving 

U.S.A. Fencing 

U.S.A. Field Hockey 

U.S.A. Golf 

U.S.A. Gymnastics 

U.S.A. Hockey 

U.S.A. Judo 

U.S.A. Luge 

U.S.A. National Karate-do Federation 

U.S.A. Para Powerlifting 

U.S.A. Pentathlon 

U.S.A. Roller Sports 

U.S.A. Rugby 

U.S.A. Shooting 

U.S.A. Skateboarding 

U.S.A. Softball 

U.S.A. Surfing 

U.S.A. Swimming 

U.S.A. Table Tennis 

U.S.A. Taekwondo 

U.S.A. Team Handball 

U.S.A. Track & Field 

U.S.A. Triathlon 

U.S.A. Volleyball 

U.S.A. Water Polo 

U.S.A. Water Ski & Wake Sports 

U.S.A. Weightlifting 

U.S.A. Wrestling 

United States Association of Blind Athletes 

United States Bobsled & Skeleton Federation 

United States Bowling Congress 

United States Curling Association 

United States Equestrian Federation 

United States Racquetball Association 

United States Sailing Association 

United States Tennis Association 

USRowing 

The text of the letter sent to the above listed organizations is enclosed below: 

  

December 1, 2021

Dear [ORGANIZATION LEADER]:

 

The Committee on Energy and Commerce has a long-standing bipartisan interest in matters regarding sexual assault, sexual misconduct, sexual mistreatment, sexual harassment, or other sexual offenses in the U.S. Olympic movement and organized sports. In furtherance of that interest and in response to troubling allegations of failures by USA Badminton to comply with its obligations as a National Governing Body (NGB), we write to remind you, along with the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and your peer NGBs, of your obligations. All adults who are authorized to interact with minor or amateur athletes at an amateur sports organization facility or at an event sanctioned by a NGB or member of an NGB are obligated under the law to report suspected child abuse, including sexual abuse. In addition, pursuant to the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act of 2020, we want to remind all NGBs that they shall not interfere in an investigation undertaken by the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

In January 2018, after reports of abuse in sports across the Olympic movement, including the abuse and mistreatment associated with Larry Nassar, the Committee launched an investigation into sexual abuse in organized sport and the Olympic community’s ability to protect its athletes from sexual abuse. In the course of the investigation, the Committee wrote to the USOPC and all NGBs requesting detailed information and documents from each entity regarding its handling of sexual abuse allegations.[1] The Committee reviewed nearly 152,000 pages of documents, spoke with dozens of survivors, and held a hearing entitled “Examining the U.S. Olympic Community’s Ability to Protect Athletes from Sexual Abuse.”[2]

In December 2018, the Committee released a report titled “Nassar and Beyond: A Review of the Olympic Community’s Efforts to Protect Athletes from Sexual Abuse,” which summarized the Committee’s findings after concluding a year-long investigation.[3]  The Committee’s report outlined several recommendations that put athlete safety at the center of the USOPC and each NGB’s mission.  

In addition, Congress has enacted several pieces of legislation to ensure additional protections for athletes.  First, Congress designated the U.S. Center for SafeSport to serve as the independent national safe sport organization through enactment of the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act.[4] Under this new law the organization will exercise jurisdiction over the USOPC, each NGB, and each Paralympic sports organization with regard to safeguarding amateur athletes against abuse. 

Specifically, the law provides that, among other things, adults authorized to interact with certain minors and amateur athletes must report evidence of child abuse, including sexual abuse. It also clarifies that the U.S. Center for SafeSport is the independent national safe sport organization responsible for developing training, oversight practices, policies, and procedures to prevent the emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of amateur athletes participating in amateur activities through NGBs and Paralympic sports organizations.[5] Under the law, an authorized adult who fails to report suspected child abuse, including sexual abuse, within a 24-hour period is subject to criminal penalties.[6] 

Second, the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act of 2020 states that NGBs “shall not interfere in, or attempt to influence the outcome of, an investigation.”[7] This law also prohibits retaliation against protected individuals because of disclosures pertaining to sexual abuse or harassment.[8] Further, this new law requires the U.S. Center for SafeSport to report to certain congressional committees, including the Committee on Energy and Commerce, within 72 hours of an attempt to interfere in, or influence the outcome of, an investigation.[9]

We applaud the Olympic community for the reforms that have been made to date. However, it has recently been brought to our attention that officials at USA Badminton may have failed to report allegations of child sexual abuse, discouraged others from reporting these allegations, and may be obstructing an investigation into those allegations undertaken by the U.S. Center for SafeSport. If true, this is unacceptable, deeply troubling, and a violation of federal law.

To protect our athletes and ensure the future success of sport, the USOPC and all NGBs must comply with all applicable federal laws when it comes to reporting allegations of sexual abuse to both law enforcement and the U.S. Center for SafeSport. It is imperative that the USOPC and NGBs continue to be proactive in ensuring that their policies and procedures prioritize athlete safety and are consistent, followed, and enforced. The USOPC and NGBs are encouraged to avail themselves of training and policy resources available from the U.S. Center for SafeSport to ensure compliance with the law and the safety of athletes.

If you have any questions, please contact Will McAuliffe with the Majority Committee staff or Brittany Havens with the Minority Committee staff. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

[1] Letters from Rep. Greg Walden, Chairman and Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., Ranking Member, et al., House Committee on Energy and Commerce, to Ms. Kerry Perry, USA Gymnastics; Mr. Scott Blackmun, United States Olympic Committee (USOC); Mr. Brian Breslin, Michigan State University (MSU); Mr. Tim Hinchey, USA Swimming; and Mr. Steve McNally, USA Taekwondo (Jan. 26, 2018); Letters from Rep. Greg Walden, Chairman, and Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., Ranking Member, et al., House Committee on Energy and Commerce, to Ms. Susan Lyons (USOC); Mr. John Engler (MSU); Mr. Rod Menzer, USA Archery (Mar. 7, 2018).

[2] House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Examining the U.S. Olympic Community’s Ability to Protect Athletes from Sexual Abuse, 115th Cong. (May 23, 2018).

[3] House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Nassar and Beyond: A Review of the Olympic Community’s Efforts to Protect Athletes from Sexual Abuse, 115th Cong. (Dec. 20, 2018).

[4] Pub. L. No. 115-126.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Pub. L. No. 116-289.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

 

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