U.S. House panel expands probe into sex abuse in sports
Washington — A U.S. House committee has sent a second round of questions to Michigan State University, the U.S. Olympic Committee and amateur sports governing bodies requesting data and records on the handling and prevention of sexual abuse in organized sports.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee said Thursday it is expanding its probe stemming from sports doctor Larry Nassar’s sex crimes at MSU, as well as other sites associated with the U.S. Olympics women’s gymnastics program.
Nassar, a former university doctor, was sentenced to what amounts to life imprisonment earlier this year after admitting to sexually abusing girls and women under the guise of medical treatment and to possessing child pornography.
The panel’s inquiries follow an initial set of questions sent out Jan. 26. This week’s letters went out to an expanded group that included all 48 national governing bodies. Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Oregon, has said he will hold hearings, which are expected this spring.
The letter to the U.S. Olympic Committee says the panel is worried that a “pervasive and systemic problem exists in Olympic sports.”
In the letter to MSU Interim President John Engler, dated Wednesday, the committee says the panel is “concerned by apparent gaps in oversight” that enabled Nassar to abuse students and other young women.
“The safety and well-being of all athletes should be the highest priority of those responsible for their development, training and care,” committee leaders wrote.
“It is imperative, therefore, to understand the scope of this challenge, to ensure existing and future efforts to improve athlete safety are appropriate, coordinated and commensurate to the problem.”
The committee requests copies of all policies and procedures used by the university since 2005 to prevent and handle allegations of abuse by MSU employees, and data on the number of reports or complaints of abuse by an MSU employee, including how the matters were resolved and any forms of punishment issued.
The panel also wants to know MSU’s policies for performing background checks or other vetting of employees, and MSU’s procedures for disclosing allegations or complaints of abuse by an employee to external groups or organizations that individual is involved with in an official capacity.
An investigation by The Detroit News in January found that reports of sexual misconduct by Nassar had reached at least 14 MSU representatives in the two decades before his arrest, with at least eight women reporting his actions.
Those 14 representatives included former MSU President Lou Anna Simon, who was informed in 2014 that a Title IX complaint and a police report had been filed against an unnamed physician.
Simon has said she did not interfere with the inquiry, which found no violation of the university’s sexual harassment policy based on the evidence, according to MSU.