A new congressional report says multiple institutions knew that Larry Nassar was abusing gymnasts and failed to stop it.
The report, which presents the findings of an 18-month congressional investigation into the Nassar scandal, says that the FBI, the US Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University all had a chance to stop Nassar’s abuse and “failed to do so.”
These organizations “sat on evidence of his sexual misconduct for over a year — allowing for the additional sexual abuse of dozens of other girls,” says the report, which was released Tuesday.
The former USA Gymnastics doctor is serving an effective life sentence on child pornography charges and criminal sexual conduct after more than 150 women and girls said he sexually abused them over the past two decades.
The investigation was conducted by Republican Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas and Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
The FBI declined to comment on the report’s findings. The Justice Department is reportedly investigating the FBI’s handling of sexual abuse allegations against Nassar.
Li Li Leung, president and chief executive officer of USA Gymnastics, said her organization had not seen the report but it had “already made numerous” changes to prevent the opportunity for abuse to occur.”
“We have made it our top priority to become an athlete-centric organization that keeps athlete safety and well-being at the forefront of all that we do,” she said in a statement.
Leung also said her organization is looking forward to working with lawmakers, the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and all groups named in the report to put “athlete safety and well-being first.”
MSU spokeswoman Emily Guerrant said the university had not been aware of Nassar’s abuse and assaults until 2016, when The Indianapolis Star published a story exposing how USA Gymnastics had for years failed to tell police or proper authorities about allegations of sexual abuse against its coaches.
“We know we let our community and the survivors down by failing to protect them for many years,” Guerrant said in a statement. “Since 2016, the university has reviewed its own policies surrounding athlete and patient safety, invested time, financial resources and staff resources to make improvements in our patient healthcare, sexual assault and relationship violence prevention and also responses to assault. We realize we have more changes to make and are committed to making MSU a safer campus.”
Lawmakers want ability to dissolve Olympic committee
Following the report’s release, the senators introduced the “Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2019” to “empower and protect Olympic and amateur athletes.”
“First and foremost, our legislation will implement requirements to promote a culture where athletes and their best interests are put first. Second, it will ensure greater transparency and accountability throughout the amateur sports movement,” the senators said.
The proposed bill would give athletes a larger voice in governance of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and require the committee to contribute $20 million annually to the operating costs of the US Center for SafeSport — the agency that oversees sexual misconduct and other abuse allegations reported to national governing bodies.
It would also allow Congress to dissolve the USOPC’s entire board and decertify national governing bodies like USA Gymnastics if necessary.
Sarah Hirshland, chief executive of the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said the legislation was consistent with the ongoing initiatives and reform at the USOPC, but noted that some portions could result in “unintended consequences and disruption for athletes” once it goes into effect.
“We look forward to working with Senators Moran, Blumenthal and others in Congress to address these areas, make athletes safer, and make Olympic and Paralympic organizations in the US as exceptional as the athletes they serve,” Hirshland said.
Olympic gold medalist McKayla Maroney, who was among Nassar’s victims, praised the bill in a statement.
“We have the right to expect that our United States Olympic Committee will protect all athletes, especially children. This bill recognizes that USOC failed us and put child athletes at risk. Congress should pass this bill as soon as possible and hold the leadership of USOC accountable for their failures,” she said in a statement released by the senators.
Attorney John Manly, who represents many of Nassar’s victims, described the report as a “damning indictment” of the sport’s governing bodies and the “failures” of the FBI.
“For 421 days USAG, USOC and the FBI knew that Nassar had molested Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Maggie Nichols and failed to stop the cover up of the largest sexual abuse scandal in the history of sports. It took the courageous testimony of these magnificent young athletes to end the cover-up,” Manly said in a statement.