U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security, will convene a hearing titled “Strengthening and Empowering U.S. Amateur Athletes: Moving Forward with Solutions” at 2:30 pm on Tuesday, July 24, 2018. The hearing will focus on changes made by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Gymnastics (USAG), and Michigan State University (MSU) to protect Olympic and amateur athletes from abuse. It will examine recent reforms to provide safe environments for athletes and how these reforms are being implemented.
The subcommittee convened two previous hearings on April 18 and June 5 featuring testimony from survivors and officials in positions of responsibility when abuse committed by former USA Gymnastics team doctor and Michigan State University physician Larry Nassar occurred.
- The Honorable John Engler, Interim President, Michigan State University
- Ms. Susanne Lyons, Acting Chief Executive Officer, United States Olympic Committee
- Ms. Kerry Perry, President and Chief Executive Officer, USA Gymnastics
- Mr. Han Xiao, Chairman, Athletes’ Advisory Council
*Witness list subject to change.
Tuesday, July 24, 2018
Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security
This hearing will take place in Hart Senate Office Building, Room 216. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
Chairman Jerry Moran
Good afternoon, and welcome to today’s subcommittee hearing. I call the hearing to order.
In January, this subcommittee launched an investigation to examine cultural and systemic issues regarding abuse in the Olympic movement following horrific revelations that former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar sexually abused and assaulted hundreds of athletes over the span of two decades, even well after numerous survivors alerted authorities about his actions.
This subcommittee – which exercises jurisdiction over the U.S. Olympic Committee and amateur sports – is fully committed to ensuring the health and safety of all American athletes, and today marks the third hearing in our ongoing investigation.
I’d like to first acknowledge the incredible statement made at last week’s ESPY Awards, watching over 100 survivors take the stage to accept the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. If any of you haven’t had had a chance to watch the awards ceremony, I encourage you to do so.
The brave actions of our young athletes who shed light on their painful pasts have invigorated a national calling for change and I’m glad to have so many of them with us today.
Since initiating our bipartisan investigation, this subcommittee has held two critical hearings in which the members of the committee and American public heard from distinct witness panels on their experiences related to the procedural missteps and cultural inaction experienced within these troubled organizations.
In the first hearing, we heard testimony from four survivors of abuse across different Olympic sports who shared personal experiences about the systemic practices that have safeguarded perpetrators, have both inhibited victims from coming forward, and have prevented victims’ reports from coming to light. All of the survivors we’ve met with have highlighted institutional failures that have allowed these heinous acts to continue – which we recommit ourselves to fixing by being here today.
Once again, I would like to echo my appreciation for those survivors and the many others who have spoken to us and our staff regarding their painful experiences.
Their insightful recommendations on what needs to be done to correct these failures are certainly appreciated and continue to be considered as this committee works toward thoughtful, lasting change.
In the second hearing, we called on former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny, former Women’s Program Director of USA Gymnastics Rhonda Faehn, and former Michigan State University President Dr. Lou Anna Simon to provide testimony and answer questions as to how the rampant abuse that took place at the hands of Nassar was able to perpetuate for as long as it did.
I would also note that Scott Blackmun, the former president of the U.S. Olympic Committee; and Martha Karolyi, the former national team coordinator for USA Gymnastics, were invited to attend but declined for medical reasons.
There were a number of significant details that came to light from the questions this subcommittee posed in that hearing – including USA Gymnastics’ mishandling of critical medical records, lack of communication to and within Michigan State University related to sexual abuse reports against their employee, and most significant, the complete lack of cooperation demonstrated by Mr. Penny in his refusal to answer questions.
From these findings, along with the continued analysis of lengthy documentation produced by USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee and Michigan State University, we continue to pursue answers to the many serious questions that remain for the current executives of these organizations. Most importantly, we expect to hear today which aspects of their systems and culture have changed, and how they plan to implement serious reforms moving forward.
Joining us today is Mr. John Engler, Interim President of Michigan State University; Ms. Susanne Lyons, Acting CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee; Ms. Kerry Perry, President and CEO of USA Gymnastics; and Mr. Han Xiao, Chair of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Athlete Advisory Council. It is my expectation that we will receive the full cooperation of today’s panel in answering the subcommittee’s questions to the best of their ability.
We are also honored to welcome the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Dianne Feinstein of California, to the subcommittee to provide opening testimony. Given their leadership and work with Chairman Thune to enact the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and SafeSport Authorization Act of 2017, their testimony today will be invaluable in helping this subcommittee further raise awareness and identify solutions that will make a difference. Thank you, Senators, for the time you have taken to prepare and present your testimony.
I will conclude my opening remarks by emphasizing the bipartisan approach that this subcommittee has taken in its comprehensive investigation. With the consultation of law enforcement, survivors and advocates, we have worked closely together to identify meaningful reform in the best interests of athletes and their families.
During Aly Raisman’s powerful speech last week at the ESPY Awards, she reminded survivors of abuse: you are not alone. We are here today to remind all survivors this: we are listening, we are committed to change and we will make certain the next generation of athletes are free to compete and represent our nation without the fear of abuse.
With that, I will turn to the Ranking Member, Senator Blumenthal, for his opening statement.
Senator Chuck Grassley
Good afternoon. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for convening this hearing and giving me the opportunity to participate.
As a parent, as a grandparent, I can think of no issue of greater importance than keeping children safe from sexual predators. The abuse scandal that’s the focus of today’s hearing is a grim reminder of that. Unfortunately, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University aren’t the only institutions that have made headlines over the years due to sexual abuse of young athletes. Other institutions have also struggled with this issue.
Sexual abuse, in any form, is an especially troubling crime because its victims suffer both physical and mental trauma that can last a lifetime. When the abuse is by a coach or a team doctor and the victim is a minor, the betrayal of trust is even greater. In this case, when there were adults in a position to intervene, but they failed to act, it’s particularly tragic.
Larry Nassar, the former national team doctor with USA Gymnastics, abused hundreds of victims over a period of years. The significant sentences he received ensure that he’ll never again hurt a young gymnast or any other child. But we must do more to prevent these horrific crimes from happening again. Congressional oversight of the FBI falls within the jurisdiction of our Judiciary Committee. After hearing one gymnast’s complaint about the FBI’s handling of the allegations against Nassar, I wrote the FBI Director to request a briefing on the Bureau’s involvement in this case.
My committee staff spoke with the FBI yesterday, and we were advised that the FBI’s handling of this investigation has been referred to the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General. Our Committee convened its own hearing on the importance of protecting amateur athletes last year. I also joined Senator Feinstein last year in introducing the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act.
This new law requires amateur athletic governing bodies to immediately report suspected sexual abuse to the authorities. Our Judiciary Committee approved this measure and then worked closely with Commerce Chairman Thune on additional changes to the bill, before the President signed the final version in February.
The new law also authorizes the U.S. Center for Safe Sport to respond to instances of sexual misconduct within the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic community. Since its inception, Safesport has fielded over 1,200 misconduct allegations and issued sanctions against 300 individuals.
Its website, safesport.org, has a searchable database that enables the public to find out if someone’s been banned from a sport or otherwise disciplined.
Just in the last month, I convened two other Judiciary Committee hearings on the topic of sexual violence. I’ve learned that we still need to do more to educate adults who are in a position to protect children. We also must reduce opportunities for predators to exploit victims. In many or most instances, adult coaches, trainers, and doctors shouldn’t be left alone while working with young athletes.
I’ll conclude by thanking you, Chairman Moran, for your leadership on this subcommittee. In holding several hearings on this issue, you’ve given a voice to sexual abuse victims.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable John EnglerInterim PresidentMichigan State University
Ms. Susanne LyonsActing Chief Executive Officer, United States Olympic Committee
Ms. Kerry PerryPresident and Chief Executive Officer, USA Gymnastics
Mr. Han XiaoChairman, Athletes’ Advisory Council