Four Olympic and world champions formally petitioned Congress on Wednesday to dissolve the board of directors of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, saying the organization has ignored sexual abuse for decades and has failed to take the necessary steps to eradicate a culture of abuse in American Olympic sports.
In a letter to Senator Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut and Senator Jerry Moran, Kansas, Olympic champions Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, and Ali Risman, and world champion Maggie Nichols, urged Congress to pass a joint resolution on November 1. dissolve the USOPC board in accordance with the landmark Olympic, Paralympic and Amateur Athlete Empowerment Act 2020.
Blumenthal and Moran were co-sponsors of a law that places greater legal responsibility on the USOPC and national governing bodies for sexual abuse by coaches, officials, and employees. It also provides Congress with mechanisms to dissolve the USOPC board of directors and revoke the attestation of national committees.
“We believe it is time for Congress to exercise its authority over the organization it created by replacing the entire USOPC board of directors with leadership that is ready and able to do what should have been done a long time ago: to responsibly investigate the systemic issue of sexual violence in Olympic organizations – including the USOPC. – and all attempts to hide it, ”wrote four women survivors of sexual abuse of former USOPC physician and US gymnastics team Larry Nassar in a letter to Blumenthal and Moran.
The letter came in anticipation of action in the Senate to bring closer attention to the USOPC Board and even a proposal to completely dissolve it.
“We are grateful to these athletes for their constant demand for fairness and responsibility – a goal that we share,” Blumenthal and Moran said in a joint statement. “We look forward to continuing our work together to ensure that USOPC is held accountable for past failures.
“Our law gave Congress the power to dissolve the governing bodies of USOPC and individual sports in response to clear evidence that these institutions have not always been able to take responsibility. This oversight mechanism requires Congress to develop procedures for appointing a new council before dissolving the old one and must be approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate before being signed by the President. ”
The letter also follows the spectacular testimony of four women last month before the Senate Judicial Committee.
“I sacrificed my childhood for the chance to fight for the United States, and I am haunted by the fact that even after I reported my abuse, so many women and girls had to suffer at the hands of Larry Nassar,” Nichols testified during hearings. which focused on the FBI’s handling and the cover-up of numerous allegations that Nassar sexually assaulted Olympic and national gymnasts for years under the guise of medical treatment.
USOPC was also heavily criticized by athletes and Senate members during the hearings.
Nichols, in June 2015, became the first member of the US national team to report allegations of mistreatment of Nassar to US Gymnastics. Senior USOPC officials, including then-CEO Scott Blackman, were notified of the allegations shortly thereafter, but took no action. The USOPC board did not call for an investigation into the Nassar case until February 2018.
“Since the abuse of Nassar became known, the USOPC’s top priority has been to hide guilt and avoid responsibility,” the women wrote in a letter.
“We believe the Council’s past actions demonstrate a reluctance to confront the pervasive problems of abuse faced by athletes like us and a continued refusal to implement real and necessary reform of the broken Olympic system,” the letter said.
“The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) has deep respect and compassion for victims of abuse,” the USOPC said in a statement. “The letter addressed to Congress underlines their concern and we recognize the courage of the surviving athletes who continue to push these issues forward. The letter mentions the issues that USOPC has been dealing with for over two years and the work we continue to do every day. ”