Sexual abuse in Olympic sports in the U.S. is unprecedented, according to a Washington Post review published Saturday that said more than 290 coaches and officials associated with Olympic sports organizations had been publicly accused of sexual misconduct since 1982.
It continues to happen because gold medals are of greater significance than the welfare of children, according to dozens of Olympic sports officials who had spoken with the Post, and because the safeguards in place for abuse were flawed.
Top USOC leaders have been reluctant to support strict legislation concerning the reporting of abuse, and only this week did Congress pass a bill amending the Ted Stevens Act requiring the amateur athletics organizations to report sex-abuse allegations immediately to local law enforcement or a child welfare agency.
“Everything about this environment, while understandable in the context of a highly competitive Olympic sport, tends to suppress reporting of inappropriate activity,” said former federal prosecutor Deborah Daniels in her review of USA Gymnastics’ abuse prevention policies.
The bill would further authorize the U.S. Center for SafeSport to ensure that aspiring Olympic athletes can report allegations of abuse to an independent and non-conflicted entity for investigation and resolution. SafeSport is a nonprofit tasked with disciplinary investigations of abuse.
Previously, USA Gymnastics required a written allegation of abuse from a victim or a victim’s parent before the organization could respond.
The Post’s report comes as allegations of sexual assault continue to rise against former Olympic gymnastics team physician Larry Nassar. Five former Team USA members have lodged complaints, along with at least 125 other athletes.
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