WASHINGTON – Leaders from several Olympic sports told a Senate subcommittee Wednesday that they need more money to adequately address sexual abuse allegations from their athletes.
“Monsters are often in plain sight,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said of decades of abuse of Olympic athletes, often by coaches and trainers.
The hearing comes a year after Larry Nassar was charged with sexually abusing more than 150 young women under his care while serving as an Olympic medical professional and was the fourth hearing in a larger investigation by the Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security Subcommittee.
Subcommittee members questioned four representatives from Olympic figure skating, weightlifting, bobsled and skeleton, and swimming regarding their internal procedures for accusations of sexual assault as well as any changes they may have implemented in response to an athlete protection bill passed last year.
Some organizations like U.S. Figure Skating said they had improved procedures since their first sexual assault case over 30 years ago, while leaders from USA Bobsled and Skeleton and USA Swimming it has been difficult for their groups to address accusations immediately.
All four organizations pointed to funding as a core barrier to providing the procedural framework victims need in cases of sexual assault.
Sen. Catherine Cortez Mastro, D-Nev., asked whether adequately funding the U.S. Center for SafeSport would help.
The response was a unanimous yes.
U.S. Figure Skating President Anne Cammett proposed a series of solutions, which included coordinating an overarching awareness campaign, creating a national database of banned and suspended athletes and granting more power to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a central ethics organization.
The top priority, though, is increase funding so the athletic organizations can hire expert staff in sex abuse education, investigation and adjudication, she said.
“What we’re learning is that our responses our unfortunately not as fast as they were when we were first handling, so it goes back to your question about funding,” said USA Swimming President Tim Hinchey. “Funding is significant and at the same time we need to hire the right amount of people that can respond to the needs of our athletes.”
The subcommittee is planning to interview each of the 47 governing bodies in the United States Olympic Committee to ensure the safety of American Olympic athletes.