WASHINGTON — Senator Joni Ernst has been calling on congress to launch its own investigation of the U.S. Olympic Committee to see why a sports doctor was allowed to treat athletes for years after dozens of complaints.
“Like many Americans, I was horrified to hear of the crimes commited by Larry Nassar, the USA Gymnastics doctor who abused hundreds of young athletes,” Ernst said during testimony in a senate committee this summer.
Since January, Ernst has joined with other senators on a number of occasions to call for a congressional response. Ernst said Nassar’s actions and the individuals and institutions who protected him are “reprehensible.”
“When these athletes reported the abuse to those they trusted — people within their university, their gymnastics club, Olympic leadership or people their parents paid to turn them into strong and healthy athletes — they were shut down,” Ernst said. “They were ignored and they were told: ‘There was nothing to see here.’”
The U.S. Olympic Committee’s chairman resigned at the end of February and Nassar essentially has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison, but Ernst said problems persist in the U.S. Olympic Committee and its affiliates that must be investigated and addressed.
“Even more maddening is these organizations rake in millions of dollars a year and enjoy tax-exempt status,” Ernst said.
As a student at Iowa State University, Ernst volunteered at a rape crisis center and Ernst said that experience showed her survivors are forever altered by the abuse they endure.
“Abuse like this is not something you can just simply forget,” Ernst said. “…We must take survivors’ stories seriously and ensure they are heard.” Ernst said.
The U.S. Center for SafeSport has been created to oversee abuse complaints from athletes training for the Olympics. The U.S. Olympic Committee is a federally-chartered organization. It oversees 47 other groups like U.S.A. Gymnastics that govern the individual and team sports that are part of the Summer and Winter Olympic Games.