A congressional committee is demanding information from major sports organizations, including USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee, about policies against sexual abuse as lawmakers probe how gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar got away with preying on young athletes for decades.
Reports of Nassar’s sex crimes “raise serious concerns about protecting athletes from abuse and mistreatment in organized sports,” House Commerce Committee Chair Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said Friday in a statement announcing the investigation. He called Nassar’s actions “abhorrent.”
A Michigan judge this week sentenced Nassar to 40 years to 175 years in prison for sexual assault. More than 140 women and girls, including multiple Olympic gymnasts, have come forward to accuse him of abusing them under the guise of medical treatment. Many said they brought their complaints to USA Gymnastics or Michigan State University, where Nassar also worked, but were silenced or ignored.
The House investigation also will include taekwondo and swimming, as athletes of both sports have alleged sexual misconduct and a lack of oversight from the respective governing bodies.
“These organizations must have mechanisms in place to ensure complete oversight and prevent such abuses from occurring,” Walden said. “As we move forward in gathering the facts, this committee intends to hold a hearing in order to investigate these critical issues further.”
The committee also sent an inquiry to Michigan State University.
Nassar’s crimes have forced recent resignations from several top officials at USA Gymnastics and MSU, including the university president and athletic director. The remaining members of USA Gymnastics’ board resigned on Friday afternoon, after the U.S. Olympic Committee threatened the previous day to strip its certification as the sport’s governing body if the entire board did not resign.
Members of Michigan’s congressional delegation who serve on the Commerce Committee earlier called on its leaders to investigate the USOC, USA Gymnastics and MSU.
Senate lawmakers have also sought to address Nassar’s serial crimes, and the broader issue of sexual abuse in sports.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Tuesday plans to hold an event with several of Nassar’s victims, including Rachael Denhollander, the first gymnast to publicly accuse him of assault.
Feinstein plans to demand a House vote on legislation requiring sports governing bodies to immediately report sexual abuse claims to law enforcement officials. The Senate passed the legislation in November.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) requested earlier this week that the Senate establish a select committee to investigate the role of USA Gymnastics and the USOC, before the Winter Olympics begin on Feb. 9.
“The fact is, the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics have shown they can’t police themselves. Somebody needs to be held accountable,” Shaheen said Friday on MSNBC. “Now, Larry Nassar got his due in court, and I think that is very important. But there are a lot of other people involved, and the questions continue about ‘why did this go on for so long?’”