A bill aimed at providing congressional oversight to prevent abuse within U.S. Olympic and Paralympic sports was passed unanimously in the Senate Tuesday, The Washington Post reported.
The Empowering Olympic, Paralympic and Amateur Athletes Act was introduced in July 2019, a year after former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar was sentenced to up 300 years in prison after his sexual abuse of more than 300 athletes was uncovered. Lawmakers are “hopeful for a quick passage in the House” due to bipartisan support, according to The Post.
If signed into law, the bill would give Congress the ability to dissolve the USOPC’s board of directors and to decertify individual sports’ governing bodies. It also calls for an oversight commission to examine structures within the USOPC, with the goal of increasing athlete representation in governing bodies and securing more funding and independence for the U.S. Center for SafeSport, which is tasked with policing and preventing sexual abuse in Olympic sports.
The bill calls for the USOPC to provide $20 million in funding annually for SafeSport, a steep increase from the $7.5 million it contributed to the center in 2019 and $11.5 million in 2020 – the governing body has recently asked for Congress to provide funding to the center directly.
The legislation also says that Congress would establish a 16-member “Commission on the State of U.S. Olympics and Paralympics” – half of whom would be Olympian or Paralympians – tasked with reviewing governance of Olympic sports in the United States, including the USOPC. All commission members would be congressionally appointed and would be given nine months to issue a report to Congress on their findings, The Post reported.
The USOPC would also have to conduct an annual survey of athletes and give a full report on its activities to Congress and the White House.
USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland released a statement after the bill was passed saying it would solidify “increases in transparency and accountability in [the organization’s] system.”
“The USOPC board recently approved the second phase of the most sweeping governance reforms in recent history,” Hirshland added. “Building on that commitment and this legislation, we will move rapidly to implement reforms to address any outstanding provisions from this bill.”
On Tuesday afternoon, a companion bill was formally introduced in the House, according to The Post.