Washington — Michigan lawmakers are seeking congressional probes into the sexual abuse of collegiate and amateur athletes in the wake of Wednesday’s sentencing of Michigan State University doctor Larry Nassar.
Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, and Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, among other members of Congress, are asking investigators to open investigations into the U.S. Olympic organization, USA Gymnastics and MSU.
Peters also wants MSU to commission an independent, outside investigation similar to those carried out at Penn State and Baylor universities in the wake of sexual misconduct scandals.
An Ingham County judge sentenced Nassar, who was also a doctor for USA Gymnastics, to 40 to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing girls over more than two decades. More than 150 victims spoke out against him in court over the last week.
Nassar is already serving a 60-year prison sentence on child pornography charges.
House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Thursday that the chamber will vote next week on a final bill on reforms for amateur and Olympic sports bodies, including mandatory training, required reporting and a revised system for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse.
The House and Senate both passed different versions of similar legislation last year.
“We have all been inspired by the courage of the American athletes coming forward to tell their stories,” Ryan said in a statement.
“The crimes committed against these young women are atrocious and rattle us all to the core. The fact that it went unreported to law enforcement is intolerable – and it’s a huge wake-up call.”
Bishop, whose district includes MSU, wrote Thursday to the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and House Speaker Paul Ryan requesting a congressional inquiry.
He is seeking a report on the institutional failures of the Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics and recommendations for any legislative revisions that might be warranted. The Olympic Committee is chartered by Congress.
Bishop highlighted figures from a Washington Post investigation that, since 1982, more than 290 coaches and officials affiliated with the U.S. Olympic sports organizations have been accused of sexual misconduct.
“That is unacceptable,” Bishop said in a statement.
New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, as senior member of the Oversight panel, is also calling on it to investigate, saying she was “absolutely horrified” by the abuses committed by Nassar.
“While much attention is understandably focused on Mr. Nassar and his crimes, we must also examine the larger system that allowed these acts to happen and so greatly failed these young women,” Maloney wrote in a letter to committee leadership.
Peters serves on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, which has jurisdiction over collegiate and amateur athletics.
The first-term senator said he asked committee leaders this week to hold hearings and investigations into why there have been multiple instances of major sexual abuse scandals involving young adult and child athletes, as well as “neglectful indifference by officials who should have protected them.”
Peters also intends to introduce legislation to ensure that the leaders of colleges and universities have a clear responsibility and a requirement to be informed of all Title IX investigations involving employees, including sexual abuse investigations.
“Now that the criminal proceedings are over, it is time for us to find out who is responsible at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics for enabling and failing to stop this criminal, who so clearly abused the patients placed in his care,” Peters said in a statement.
“We tell our children to say something. We now know that many did speak up, but no one in a position of authority to stop this abuse listened. We need to learn the truth so those who enabled and protected Mr. Nassar are held accountable and our children are never abused by another Larry Nassar or Jerry Sandusky.”
The U.S. Olympic Committee announced an independent investigation by a third party this week aiming to determine how the sexual abuse by Nassar went undetected for as long as it did.
“We need to know when complaints were brought forward and to who,” CEO Scott Blackmun said in a statement Wednesday, adding that both the Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics would be examined and the results made public.
USA Gymnastics said it supports the investigation.
In a Thursday letter to the MSU Board of Trustees, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California urged the board to commission an independent investigation into the Nassar scandal.
The ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee cited The Detroit News’ report last week that at least 14 university representatives were notified of serious allegations against Nassar over 20 years.
The MSU board last week asked Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette to conduct a probe – something he said he would do following the final round of sentencing for Nassar.