by Irvin Muchnick
Will Hobson and Steven Rich of the Washington Post have just contributed mightily to the journalism on Olympic sport sexual abuse — and that is not because they documented yet another individual horror story (Marc Gitelman) in yet another sport (taekwondo). Rather, it is because the Post story targets where the fix of this widespread disgrace lies: with Congress, through reform of what has become a sclerotic and unhelpful Amateur Sports Act.
See “An athlete accused her coach of sex abuse. Olympic officials stayed on the sideline,” https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/olympics/an-athlete-accused-her-coach-of-sex-abuse-olympic-officials-stayed-on-sideline/2017/02/14/35a6fc76-d2eb-11e6-a783-cd3fa950f2fd_story.html?utm_term=.32cab286c8ef.
The money quote about the U.S. Olympic Committee, as inadequately conceived by the 1978 act (named for Alaska Senator Ted Stevens), comes from women’s sports titan Donna Lopiano:
“The USOC doesn’t see itself as very broad in scope. Rather than think broadly and act like a ministry of sport, the USOC has decided to narrow its scope, strategically, to elite athletes and winning gold medals.”
I have to quibble with what the Post hypes as “a rare look at how America’s most powerful and wealthy Olympic sports organization responded when a victim asked for help.” The truth is that it’s not rare at all, and the article itself acknowledges as much just a few paragraphs later when it calls the scenario of taekwondo coach abuse victim and whistleblower Yasmin Brown “sadly common.”
That is why Concussion Inc. has been working for five years on similar stories inside USA Swimming, and why we brought the crimes there to the brink of action by now-retired Congressman George Miller of California. Unfortunately, at the climax of Miller’s involvement — the end of 2014 — he backed off just like the cowards so many of our elected representatives are, settling for a wimpy letter to the FBI and a return pat on the head from the bureau. The g-men assured the congressman that they were all over the problem. Miller then went off to collect his pension and double-dip as a Beltway lobbyist.
What the FBI being all over the problem means is that an agent now sits on the panel of USA Swimming’s phony educational conferences, produced by its new phony Safe Sport department, in which the talk centers on awareness of “stranger danger.” Stranger danger is the critical issue at day care centers. It is not the critical issue in youth sports organizations, where authority figures leverage their power over the kids they supervise, and the USOC’s national sport governing bodies direct their resources toward image-buffing, self-dealing insurance policies, and scorched-earth litigation defense.
The Post writers, to their credit, strip the veneer of independence and authenticity off USOC’s long-delayed “National Center for Safe Sport,” which now claims it will be operational this April after three years and millions of dollars wasted on press releases and do-nothing advisory boards.
America’s sports families do not need a National Center for Safe Sport. They need Congressional hearings leading to the creation of a true national sports ministry.