- The Washington Times - Monday, January 29, 2018

The House passed a bill Monday requiring coaches, staff and other adults to report suspected sexual abuse of young athletes within 24 hours, advancing Congress’s response to a molestation scandal that stunned U.S. gymnastics, a state university and the entire nation.

The legislation, approved 406-3, tasks the “Safe Sport” center within the U.S. Olympic Committee with receiving complaints and referring accusations to law enforcement, while shielding from retaliation those who make abuse claims.

Governing bodies that oversee amateur athletes must train staff to recognize and root out sexual abuse. Those who fail to report suspected abuse face a fine or up to a year in jail.

Lawmakers drafted the legislation in response to revelations that Larry Nassar, a former U.S. gymnastics and Michigan State University doctor, molested more than 160 young gymnasts for years under the pretense of providing medical treatment. He will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Initial complaints about Nassar were met with “deafening silence” by adults who could’ve intervened on behalf of young athletes, lawmakers said.

“How shameful it is, that we have to have this legislation to protect them,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas Democrat.

The House approved an earlier version of the bill by Rep. Susan Brooks, Indiana Republican, last May. But lawmakers had to iron out differences with a companion effort by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat.

Monday’s passage clears the way for another vote of support in the Senate, before the bill heads to President Trump’s desk.

House leaders said as the world celebrates the Olympic Winter Games in South Korea next month, it is important to remember the pain that so many young athletes had to endure.

“These athletes have prepared their entire lives for these games and their performances are the result of countless hours of practice, self-discipline and sacrifice,” Ms. Brooks said. “Tragically, we’ve also learned that many of our young athletes have been subjected to sexual abuse at the hands of those who were supposed to be supporting them reach their Olympics goals.”

Ms. Brooks said the Nassar scandal hit close to home, because USA Gymnastics’ headquarters is located just outside her district in Indianapolis.

An investigation by the Indianapolis Star newspaper exposed the abuse in 2016, kicking off a series of events that culminated with victim-impact statements from more than 150 young women in a Michigan courtroom, including gymnasts who rocketed to stardom with Team USA.

Last week, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina sentenced Nassar, who’d pleaded guilty to multiple counts of sexual misconduct, to up to 175 years in prison.

The fallout from the scandal is only beginning.

Top officials at U.S. gymnastics and Michigan State have resigned, and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said a thorough investigation is needed to figure out “who knew what and when, who took action, who failed to take action.”

Sens. Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican, and Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Democrat, want to establish a select committee to hold the right people accountable for the scandal and make sure it never happens again.

A pair of Michigan lawmakers — Democratic Sen. Gary Peters and Republican Rep. Mike Bishop — have also called for probes into the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State.

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