Brooks participates in hearing on Olympic community’s ability to protect athletes from sexual abuse
WASHINGTON, DC – Wednesday, the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing to examine the pervasiveness of sexual misconduct within the U.S. Olympic community and whether there are adequate policies and procedures in place to protect athletes at all levels of sport moving forward.
Among the witnesses who testified during today’s hearing were Susanne Lyons, Acting Chief Executive Officer of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC); Shellie Pfohl, President and Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Center for SafeSport (USCSS); Kerry Perry, President and Chief Executive Officer of USA Gymnastics (USAG); among other representatives from USA Swimming (USA-S), USA Taekwondo (USAT), and USA Volleyball (USAV).
The President and CEO of the U.S. Center for SafeSport, Shellie Pfohl, testified that since the center’s creation on March 3, 2017, they have responded to more than 500 reports and inquiries spanning 38 of the 49 National Governing Bodies (NGBs). As of last week, their total number of reports received since their establishment exceeded 840. Additionally, the U.S. Center for SafeSport has issued more than 169 sanctions, including 142 lifetime bans to individuals who broke SafeSport’s code of conduct pertaining to abuse of athletes.
“An unwavering commitment by national governing bodies to ensuring individuals are held accountable for their actions, both in the past and moving forward, is long overdue,” said Congresswoman Susan W. Brooks (R-IN05). “I am pleased the U.S. Center of SafeSport is actively working to create a safer environment for our nation’s athletes while also focusing on providing the victims of past abuse the justice they deserve.”
Each of those who testified apologized on behalf of their organizations and acknowledged the failure to adequately identify and challenge the culture of abuse that has been pervasive within their organizations.
The representatives from these NGBs, most of whom are the new leaders of their organizations after scandal forced out previous leaders, also stressed that they are taking necessary steps to prevent future abuse, including cooperating with U.S. Center for SafeSport policies. As a result, they acknowledged the burden they have in rebuilding the trust of the amateur athletic community across the country and the critical importance of keeping athletes safe.
“Looking to the future, there is still more work to be done to ensure the safety of young athletes, and it is clear that this is a priority for each organization who testified before the Subcommittee today,” concluded Brooks. “Athletes, their families and all of the individuals who are involved in the sport need to be aware of the resources available to them to report abuse and should feel empowered to speak up on behalf of themselves or others if abuse is taking place."
President Donald Trump signed S.534, the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017 into law in February of this year, legislation that Congresswoman Susan W. Brooks (R-IN05) championed in the House of Representatives.
S. 534 extended the mandatory reporting requirements of child abuse to USOC national governing bodies and affiliated amateur sports organizations to ensure reports are immediately made to law enforcement authorities. The bill designated the Center for SafeSport as the entity that will respond to reports of sexual misconduct within the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Movements. The Center is also responsible for developing training, oversight practices, policies, and procedures to prevent the emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of amateur athletes.