Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act of 2020 Passed by U.S. House

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The Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act of 2020, a bill designed to protect Olympic athletes from abuse passed unanimously in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday. The bill would give Congress the power to dissolve the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s (USOPC) board of directors, as well as any individual sport’s governing body such as USA Swimming or USA Gymnastics, and would more than double the federation’s funding for the U.S. Center for SafeSport, according to The Associated Press. It is now headed to the president.

The bill also sets up a bipartisan committee to do a complete review of the USOPC.

“We are grateful to our colleagues in the House who advocated for this bill, and we look forward to the president signing this legislation into law to institute and enforce these reforms so all athletes can participate in the sport they love without fear of abuse,” the bill’s main sponsors, Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said in a joint statement.

The bill also aims to add more athletes to the governing bodies of individual sports, aiming for at least half being current or former athletes, according to CPR News.

“Establishing this 16-member commission, at least half of whom will be Olympians or Paralympians, will give athletes a seat at the table and ensure the U.S. Olympic Committee’s presence in Colorado grows even stronger,” Sen. Cory Gardner said in a statement.

The Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act of 2020 was written in wake of the sex abuse scandal involving Larry Nassar, the longtime team doctor for USA Gymnastics and the Michigan State athletic program, who abused more than 300 athletes, according to a congressional report. He is serving decades in prison after being convicted on multiple charges related to his abuse.

The scandal prompted multiple investigations in Congress about the failings of sports organizations, including USA Gymnastics and the USOPC. Congress concluded that USA Gymnastics and the USOPC “knowingly concealed abuse by Larry Nassar” and enhanced oversight of those organizations was necessary to protect athletes, according to The Associated Press.

Several other high-profile cases happened in other sports, including a case brought by Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors, claiming abuse by her coach Sean Hutchison, as well as charging that USA Swimming failed to act in the case. The case was settled in March.

The USOPC has been working separately on governance reform that increases athlete representation on its boards and committees, creates better oversight of affiliated sports organizations and makes it easier for athletes to report concerns, according to the AP report. It has increased transparency about its budget and brought its total funding for the SafeSport center up to $7.5 million in 2019 — a $3 million increase over the previous year.

The bill approved Thursday proposes the USOPC provide $20 million to the center and, according to the bill, has the exclusive authority to respond to sexual abuse and sexual allegations of misconduct within the USOPC and its affiliated governing bodies for individual sports.