Congress Looks into Sexual Assault Allegations Regarding Olympic Athletes
A congressional hearing into more sexual assault allegations regarding Olympic athletes is moving beyond gymnastics. It now involves USA Swimming, as well as other sports. Tim Hinchey, president and CEO of USA Swimming, testified earlier this year before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee—a committee which is looking in to whether U.S. Olympic organizations are doing all they can to protect athletes, most particularly whether there are sufficient policies and procedures in place, given the recent accusations. Hinchey admitted before the committee that even prior to the gymnastics scandal (in which Dr. Larry Nassar was convicted of abusing hundreds of young girls and women while working at Michigan State University as well as the team doctor for the US Olympic Gymnastics team) there were problems at USA Swimming.
During the hearing, the new head of USA Gymnastics apologized for the “despicable” abuse of Olympic gymnasts, pledging to make the top priority of the organization the safety of athletes. Susanne Lyons, acting CEO of the USOC (Scott Blackmun stepped down as CEO amid calls for his resignation), also told the committee that the Olympic community had failed those it was supposed to protect, calling it “appalling and unacceptable…” Hinchey also noted that participation in sports has, for some, resulted in abuse and trauma while it was meant to offer physical, social and emotional benefits. Hinchey noted that while child sexual abuse may still occur in swimming, there would be no “complacency” on his part regarding such abuse.
Gymnasts Come Forward to Detail Sexual Abuse
Olympic gymnasts, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Simone Biles and Aly Raisman have all come forward to say they were victims of Nassar’s sexual abuse. Earlier in May, Michigan State University announced it had reached a settlement with 332 former victims for $500 million. Aside from USA Swimming and USA Swimming, the heads of USA Volleyball and USA Taekwondo also attended the Committee hearing regarding protecting athletes from sexual abuse and misconduct.
During the hearing, Shellie Pfohl, CEO of the U.S. Center for SafeSport told lawmakers that when the office opened in 2017, they typically would receive 20-30 calls per month, however in the wake of the Nassar sentencing and the #MeToo movement, the number of calls had increased to 20-30 per week.