Spending bill funds program to fight abuse in sports

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The $1.3 trillion spending bill that Congress is expected to approve this week includes $2.5 million for a grant program aimed at protecting young athletes from abuse in amateur sports.

The funding can be used to safeguard young athletes from sexual, emotional and physical abuse, said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, the New Hampshire Democrat who secured the funding.

“As Team USA athletes and sexual abuse survivors continue to come forward and courageously share their stories, it is imperative that Congress listens and takes action,” Shaheen said in a statement Thursday.

“I’m heartened by the bipartisan approval for this funding, and I’ll continue to work across the aisle to protect American athletes and deliver justice for survivors.”

House lawmakers passed the spending bill Thursday, and the Senate was expected to consider it later Thursday or Friday.

Funding for the grant program follows the enactment of federal legislation by Congress in late January to impose oversight procedures to protect young athletes, following the sexual abuse scandal involving former sports doctor Larry Nassar of Michigan State University.

That legislation requires sports governing organizations that train young amateur athletes to report suspected cases of abuse to authorities within 24 hours.

It also designated the U.S. Center for SafeSport to develop, implement and enforce policies and training for the national governing bodies and their members to prevent the abuse of minors or amateur athletes.

Funding for the Center for SafeSport was not included in that bill, but lawmakers added to this week’s spending bill $2.5 million in grant money, which would be available to the Center for SafeSport through a competitive grant award.

The omnibus does not include the creation of a special Senate committee charged with investigating the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics in the wake of Nassar’s sex crimes.

Shaheen and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, had requested the special committee in January, and last month introduced a resolution charging the panel with determining the extent to which the sports organizations were “complicit” in the criminal or negligent behavior of their employees relating to sexual abuse.

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