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Congress May Investigate USOC, USA Gymnastics

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USA TODAY

 

Two U.S. senators announced Thursday that they plan to introduce a resolution to establish a select committee to investigate how the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics allowed team doctor Larry Nassar to sexually abuse more than 150 athletes.

"The U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics helped create the perfect environment for a child predator," Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said in a statement Thursday evening. "The criminal justice system has worked and Larry Nassar will be put away for the rest of his life, but it's clear that not all responsible parties have been held accountable. We need to hold open public hearings and investigate how this sexual abuse was allowed to happen."

Thursday's statement that announced the support of Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, comes a day after Shaheen called for the formation of a select committee. That request came hours after Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison for multiple counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Michigan. More than 150 girls and women came forward to allege they were abused by Nassar, allegations that spanned more two decades as he served as the team doctor for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University.

"Larry Nassar's reprehensible crimes are on full display, and while some justice has finally been served, there are a great deal of questions that still remain," Ernst said in the statement. "This reality is, from what we know, this happened to over a hundred athletes over several decades, on the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics' watch. A Select Committee dedicating its complete attention to USOC's and USA Gymnastics' role in this tragedy is imperative to holding the appropriate parties accountable and working to ensure this doesn't happen again."

As she did in Wednesday's letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Schumer, Shaheen said a select committee comprised of men and women is needed because "no current standing committees have parity."

Shaheen requested the formation of the select committee be expedited so it could be empaneled before the start of the Winter Olympics on Feb. 9.

In other developments:

USA Gymnastics' status as the sport's national governing body will be terminated unless it meets six conditions set out by the USOC, including the resignation of the entire board by Wednesday.

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun outlined the conditions in an email sent Thursday to the USA Gymnastics board. While Blackmun had called on the board to resign Wednesday in an open letter to the Olympic community, the email was far more specific in what the USOC expects from USA Gymnastics and the repercussions if it doesn't deliver. The chair, vice chair and treasurer resigned Monday, but Blackmun said the rest of the 21-member board must go, too.

In Lansing, Mich., lawmakers called Thursday for legislation to ensure that sexual abuse complaints are never ignored again, and two legislators sent a subpoena to Michigan State demanding records of complaints filed against Nassar over a three-year period.

"History is doomed to repeat itself if we do not listen and learn from it. How do we move forward? What can we do to right the wrongs?" asked state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. "Fortunately, all of you are committed to righting the wrongs. And we're working daily to write legislation that will actually produce a real change for our children."

Lawmakers are looking to beef up mandatory reporting requirements when sexual abuse complaints are made at universities and colleges and increase penalties when those requirements aren't met.

They also want to eliminate the 10-year statute of limitations for charging or filing a civil lawsuit against someone who is suspected of committing a sexual assault on a person under the age of 16. "It's unacceptable that only half the girls can bring a criminal case," Schuitmaker said. "Every day that goes by is another victim out there who can't bring a criminal case."

State Sen. Margaret O'Brien, R-Portage, is leading the charge in drafting legislation, which could be introduced as soon as next week.

State Reps. Klint Kesto, R-Commerce Township, and Kim LaSata, R-Bainbridge Township, are starting an investigation of the university's relationship with Nassar and how it handled complaints. They sent a subpoena to MSU on Thursday, asking for documents relating to complaints filed with the university against Nassar from 2014 to 2017.

Contributing: Nancy Armour and Rachel Axon, USA TODAY; Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press, part of the USA TODAY Network.

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January 26, 2018
 
 
 

 

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