Senate passes bill to drastically overhaul USOPC

WASHINGTON (AP) — A bill that would give Congress the power to dissolve the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s board of directors and would more than double the federation’s funding for the U.S. Center for SafeSport passed the Senate unanimously Tuesday.

The bill was written in response to multiple investigations about the failings of the USOPC and its affiliated sports organizations in the wake of the Larry Nassar sex-abuse scandal. While working as a team doctor for USA Gymnastics and the Michigan State athletic program, Nassar abused more than 300 athletes, according to a congressional report.

The bill’s main sponsors, Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called the passage a “critical step towards providing effective safeguards and protections” for athletes.

“While powerful institutions failed these survivors in the past, we aren’t going to,” the senators said.

The USOPC has been working separately on governance reform that, among other things, increases athlete representation on its board and committees, creates better oversight of affiliated sports organizations and makes it easier for athletes to report concerns. It has increased transparency about its budget and brought its total funding for the SafeSport center up to $7.5 million in 2019 — a $3 million increase over the previous year. The Senate bill proposes the USOPC provide $20 million to the center.

“Building on that commitment and this legislation, we will move rapidly to implement reforms to address any outstanding provisions from this bill,” CEO Sarah Hirshland said.

Several victims, however, have not been satisfied with the USOPC’s efforts.

“I am grateful to the Senate for passing this bill, and look forward to see(ing) the House of Representatives take the next step to hold the leadership of USOPC fully accountable for their failures,” said 2012 gold-medal gymnast McKayla Maroney.