Congress to Introduce Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2019

From the

Following an 18-month inquiry into the factors that enabled USA Gymnastics’ former team doctor to sexually abuse more than 300 athletes over a two-decade span, a congressional subcommittee Tuesday will introduce legislation designed to ensure the safety of Olympic and amateur athletes ­going forward.

In broad stokes, the Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2019, if approved, would mandate significant reform of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee governance structure in three key areas:

- Increasing the legal liability for the USOPC and the 47 individual sport-specific governing bodies under its umbrella, such as USA Gymnastics, for incidents of sexual abuse by coaches and employees. In addition, the USOPC would be required to maintain a public list of all banned coaches, to ensure they are not simply rehired elsewhere. Moreover, Congress would have the right and means to dissolve the ­USOPC’s board of directors for failure to fulfill its oversight responsibility, as well as to decertify individual sports’ governing ­bodies for their failures.

- Giving athletes a larger voice in the governance of the USOPC and in their respective sports. Specifically, the representation of athletes on the Olympic committee’s board would increase from one-fifth to one-third. Athletes’ representation in each sport’s governing body would also increase to the same level, from one-fifth to one-third.

- Strengthening the Center for SafeSport, which was created as an independent, nonprofit clearinghouse and advocate for ­Olympians and would-be Olympians who feel they are being physically, mentally or sexually abused. The bill would require the USOPC to provide the center $20 million per year to do its work more effectively. Moreover, to ensure the center’s independence, employees of the USOPC or individual sports’ governing bodies would be barred from serving at the center, to guard against improper interference.