(Reuters) – The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) on Friday introduced the first wave of reforms to correct the organisational failings that allowed Larry Nassar, the former team doctor for USA Gymnastics, to prey on young athletes.
Following recommendations from an independent report and two Congressional investigations, athlete representation on USOPC’s board will be increased from three to five and national governing bodies will have to meet specific compliance standards.
“We promised changes to our structure and our practices that are revolutionary and substantive, recognising the importance of the athlete role in organizational decision-making, robust compliance and certification protocols, and reflective of the population that makes up the Olympic and Paralympic community in the United States,” USOPC Chair Susanne Lyons in a statement.
“Today we’ve delivered an important step toward that promise.
“These outcomes are the result of hard work, cooperation and a sincere belief that the USOPC – through … robust governance – can continue to be an incredible force for good in the lives of American athletes.”
The reforms come with the USOPC facing lawsuits over its slow response to the Nassar scandal and Congress applying pressure for change with its own proposals.
Nassar was sentenced to up to 300 years in prison in 2018 after more than 300 women accused him of sexual abuse.
In July, U.S. senators Richard Blumenthal and Jerry Moran introduced legislation to prevent sexual assaults against athletes by increasing oversight and legal liability for U.S. Olympic and sports officials.
The bill followed an 18-month bipartisan investigation that found Nassar was able to assault hundreds of girls and women because of a lack of transparency and accountability among U.S. Olympic officials, coaches and trainers.
The bill gives Congress authority to dissolve the board of the U.S. Olympic Committee and decertify national governing bodies should they fail to protect athletes.
The Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act would also impose greater legal liability on both the USOPC and national governing bodies that oversee amateur sports for acts such as sexual abuse by coaches and employees.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Pritha Sarkar)