U.S. Congress panel to grill Olympic
officials on preventing sex abuse
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[May 23, 2018]
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A
congressional panel on Wednesday will grill top executives from the U.S.
Olympic Committee and the governing bodies of four sports on whether
they have done enough to protect athletes from sexual abuse.
The hearing before the House of Representatives' Energy and Commerce
subcommittee follows allegations that officials ignored widespread
sexual abuse of athletes by coaches and trainers.
In the case with the highest profile, Michigan State University last
week agreed to pay $500 million to 332 women who were sexually abused by
disgraced trainer Larry Nassar, who had also been a doctor for USA
Susanne Lyons, the acting chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee,
said in prepared testimony that reforms have included rebuilding USA
Gymnastics, where the board and chief executive resigned, and doubling
spending on the independent Center for SafeSport, which opened last year
to prevent abuse.
"I know that we can do better. We will do better," said Lyons, who took
the post in February when her predecessor stepped down amid the sex
abuse scandal, citing health problems.
Executives from SafeSport and the national governing bodies for
swimming, gymnastics, taekwondo and volleyball will join Lyons at the
oversight subcommittee hearing.
A background document posted on the subcommittee's website said that
SafeSport had received almost 500 complaints or reports of sexual abuse
from its launch to mid-April, and resolved 156 cases.
Of those, 120 people have been permanently barred from taking part in
U.S. Olympic Committee sports.
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Former gymnast Rachael Denhollander (L) makes a statement during the
sentencing hearing of Larry Nassar (R), a former team USA Gymnastics
doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault
charges, in the Eaton County Court in Charlotte, Michigan, U.S.
February 2, 2018. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook
An outside 2017 audit contracted by the U.S. Olympic Committee found
that 43 of the 48 national governing bodies for sports had
deficiencies in reporting abuses, such as inconsistent enforcement
of criminal background checks, the document said.
The hearing comes two days after former Olympic swimmer Ariana
Kukors Smith sued USA Swimming in California. She alleged that
officials governing the sport knew her coach, Sean Hutchison, was
sexually abusing her and failed to investigate or stop him.
USA Swimming said in a statement, "We have been in regular contact
with her legal team over the last several months and will continue
to work with them and Ariana through this process."
The office of Hutchison's Seattle attorney, Brad Meryhew, said he
had no comment.
(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa
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