SUNDAY TALK: Grassley on Protecting Young Athletes from Abuse

Q: What recent federal law was enacted to protect young athletes from abuse?


A: Whether we are spectators or participants, sports are a big part of our American way of life. At all levels of competition, from youth leagues to collegiate to the Olympics, sports provide athletes the opportunity to explore their talents and put their abilities to the test. Families across Iowa can appreciate the sacrifices young athletes who are at the top of their field make in pursuit of their goals and aspirations. But there’s one sacrifice these gifted athletes should never have to make. They should never forfeit their personal well-being and endure abuse at the hands of a trusted coach, trainer, health care provider or mentor. Americans across the country were sickened to learn about the horrific crimes committed by a USA Gymnastics doctor. Larry Nassar was accused of molesting hundreds of girls and women, several of whom testified to the trauma they experienced during a Senate hearing I convened a few years ago. The disgraced sports physician later was convicted in Michigan and is now serving a 60-year federal sentence for child pornography crimes. As then-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I joined with my colleagues to conduct oversight and we followed up with introduction of the bipartisan Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and SafeSport Authorization Act.  This measure imposes mandatory reporting requirements on coaches, instructors and others who work with amateur athletes at youth sport organizations. It also designates an existing nonprofit organization, the U.S. Center for SafeSport, to investigate claims of sexual abuse or other misconduct in amateur sports and promote awareness as well accountability. The public can visit its website at safesport.org and use its searchable database to learn if someone has been banned from a sport or faced disciplinary measures, for example.


Q: Why did you introduce additional legislation called the SAFESPORT Act?


A: Every parent and grandparent who watches from the sidelines wants their young athlete to enjoy what they love doing most. It’s unconscionable for all Americans every time we learn about misconduct and abuse perpetrated by adults in a trusted position of authority on members of the next generation. Our young athletes deserve better. Building upon the bipartisan bill I steered through Congress last year, I’ve introduced a new legislative reform measure. Known as the SafeSport Act of 2019, it would apply transparency and accountability requirements to the U.S. Center for SafeSport to ensure its resources are used effectively. Among its major provisions, the bill would ensure the center must devote the resources it receives from the Olympic community primarily to investigation and resolving complaints of misconduct, rather than for administrative expenses or executive compensation. It would bar the use of these resources for fundraising or lobbying expenditures. It also would require annual reporting and annual audits of the center by an independent auditor, enhance child abuse reporting requirements and prohibit retaliation against those who report abuse or harassment in amateur sports. The Senate Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over this legislation, approved most of its provisions in November. I’ll keep working to advance the SafeSport Act through the full Senate. Fostering a culture of trust and accountability will take vigilance and oversight to ensure leaders act on reports of abuse and young athletes can focus on pursuing their dreams in a safe environment.


The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) is a federally chartered nonprofit corporation. The 2020 Summer Olympics will take place in Tokyo, Japan.

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