03/01 11:16 CST Olympic commission suggests SafeSport be independent from USOPC
Olympic commission suggests SafeSport be independent from USOPC
By EDDIE PELLS
AP National Writer
A commission charged with reviewing the Olympic system in the United States
recommended Congress rework key facets of the U.S. Center for SafeSport,
including making it completely independent of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic
Committee and reimagining the way it deals with cases in the grassroots.
The commission released its 275-page report Friday, also suggesting Congress
create a new federal office to oversee grassroots sports that are now largely
under the auspices of the USOPC, which could then focus on its central
objective of supporting high-performance athletes and Olympic teams.
The tension between grassroots and elite sports is a common theme throughout
the document, which suggests that some reworking of the 1978 law that created
the modern-day Olympic structure in the U.S. could be in order.
A big focus of the report was on the Denver-based SafeSport Center, which was
established in 2017 to oversee sex-abuse cases in Olympic sports. It receives
around $20 million annually from the USOPC and its sports affiliates, though
the report called for a rethinking of the funding model. The center has long
been dealing with an overload of cases and has been criticized for taking too
long to resolve them.
"The $20 million annually that USOPC must currently provide to SafeSport should
instead be reinvested in improving conditions for our high-performance athletes
so they will be less vulnerable to abuse," the report said.
Center CEO Ju'Riese Colon said the funding "is insufficient to meet the growing
demands on the Center."
"Regardless of whether the additional funding continues to come through the
USOPC as required by federal law, or directly from Congressional
appropriations, it needs to increase substantially to allow the Center to
better fulfill our mission of keeping America's athletes safe," she said.
But some data embedded in the report suggested the center has bigger issues
than mere funding. The report published polling information, previously
reported by The Associated Press, that found 25.4% of 1,752 respondents found
the SafeSport Center to be "not so effective" or "not effective at all."
Another 41.4% said it was only "somewhat effective."
While the center took a big portion of the heat, the USOPC also was criticized
for being an unwieldy, not-too-transparent organization that would benefit from
increased oversight and a streamlining of its mission.
It also called on removing the idea of amateurism --- once a key cornerstone of
the Olympic movement --- from the title of the 1978 "Ted Stevens Olympic and
Amateur Sports Act."
"We need a better long-term vision for how we organize Olympic- and
Paralympic-movement sports in America," the commission wrote as part of its
conclusion. "One that ensures participants' safety, promotes equitable access,
and holds governing systems accountable through transparency and a commitment
to due process."
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