New bill seeks to protect US athletes following Nassar scandal

Legislation has been introduced to prevent sexual assaults against US athletes, with the bill to give Congress the authority to dissolve sporting bodies should they fail to protect sportsmen and women.

The Reuters news agency reported that the legislation was introduced yesterday (Tuesday) by two US senators. It is hoped the bill will place greater legal liability on US Olympic and sports officials.

The legislation has been introduced following the Larry Nassar scandal that rocked US gymnastics. Nassar, the former team doctor at USA Gymnastics, was last year jailed for life for the abuse of more than 250 athletes.

An investigation into the abuse found that US officials showed a lack of accountability on the matter. The new bill would allow Congress to decertify sports bodies if they do not provide their athletes with sufficient protection.

Democrat Richard Blumenthal said: “This needs to empower and embolden the athletes who should feel they can come forward without fear of retaliation, and without intimidation.”

Sarah Hirshland, chief executive of the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee, has welcomed the move but expressed a wish to work with Congress on certain areas.

In a statement reported by Reuters, Hirshland said: “There are sections in the proposed legislation that, while conceptually appropriate, could result in unintended consequences and disruption for athletes in operational reality.”