Thune and Nelson Statements on Passage of Safe Sport Authorization

Legislation establishes in law an independent entity to investigate reports of abuse and protect victims following horrific child abuse in the U.S. Olympic movement

January 30, 2018

Washington– U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which exercises jurisdiction over sports policy and federally-chartered organizations like the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), issued the following statement on the passage of S. 534, The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act.

“Horrific sexual abuse and tepid responses from organizations that exist to support the careers of U.S. Olympic athletes, are nothing short of a betrayal,” said Thune. “Today’s Senate vote sends the president legislation putting necessary new safeguards in place and empowers the new United States Center for Safe Sport to investigate and resolve reports of abuse. I appreciate the efforts of my lead cosponsor Sen. Nelson, the other cosponsors of our legislation as well as Sen. Feinstein and other colleagues who cosponsored complementary legislation referred to the Judiciary Committee that ultimately carried our proposal into law. Passage of all these reforms is first and foremost a victory for the survivors and other advocates whom I was honored to stand with today at a press conference marking this important legislative achievement.”

“The system failed these young women horribly,” said Nelson, referring to the hundreds of female gymnasts and other Olympic and collegiate athletes who have reported being victims of sexual abuse. “USA Gymnastics failed them.  The USOC failed them.  Michigan State failed them.  By putting new safeguards into law to protect athletes from abuse we’re sending a message that this cannot and must not happen again.”

The U.S. Senate previously passed S. 534 on November 14, 2017. Today’s unanimous Senate vote approves a change to this legislation made by the House of Representatives and sends the bill to the White House to be signed into law. 

The legislation approved today requires Olympic governing bodies and amateur sports organizations to report sex-abuse allegations immediately to local or federal law enforcement, or a child-welfare agency designated by the Justice Department. The bill further authorizes the United States Center for Safe Sport to ensure that aspiring U.S. Olympic athletes can report allegations of abuse to an independent and non-conflicted entity for investigation and resolution, and to make sure that all national governing bodies follow the strictest standards for child abuse prevention and detection.  The bill amends the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, under the Commerce Committee’s jurisdiction, to expand the purposes of USOC to promote a safe environment in sports that is free from abuse.  The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act stems from recent allegations of sexual abuse made against personnel involved with USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming and USA Taekwondo, U.S. Speedskating, and USA Cycling, and follows hearings earlier this year before the Senate Commerce Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee on this matter and on athlete safety issues.

Earlier today, Sens. Thune and Nelson appeared at a press conference with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and other sponsors and survivors of sexual abuse from the Olympic movement to celebrate the legislative success of The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act. Click here to watch Sen. Thune’s and here for Sen. Nelson’s remarks at the press conference. 

Last week, the chairman and ranking member of the Commerce Committee’s subcommittee with jurisdiction over sports furthered the committee’s year-long oversight effort into sexual abuse within the U.S. Olympic movement through inquiries to USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and Michigan State University.