Reprinted with permission from the February 20 issue of Sports Litigation Alert, published by Hackney Publications. For more information, see http://www.hackneypublications.com/.
USOC Moves Closer to Launch of the United States Center for Safe Sport
The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has announced the formation of an independent advisory council to guide the launch of the United States Center for Safe Sport. The council is charged with providing industry expertise to support and inform the center during its start-up phase through June 2015.
The USOC’s board of directors unanimously approved the creation of the U.S. Center for Safe Sport in June 2014 based on recommendations from the USOC’s Safe Sport Working Group. The independent entity will oversee education programs for safe sport, and investigate and adjudicate claims of misconduct in sports that are managed by USOC-sanctioned National Governing Bodies.
“There is no national agency today that is responsible for the safety and well-being of young athletes and we’re in position to lead this important effort,” said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. “The National Center for Safe Sport will help fill that vacuum by providing training and resources, promoting open dialogue and conducting investigations on a national level.”
The seven-member council consists of external experts and industry leaders in abuse prevention, including Tony Foreman (Oklahoma City Police Department), Angelo Giardino (Texas Children’s Hospital), W. Scott Lewis (National Center for Higher Risk Management Group), Laurie Nathan (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children), Stephanie Smith (Child Protection Training Center), Katherine Starr (Safe4Athletes) and Dr. Jeffery Wilkins (Cedars-Sinai).
The council’s expertise “broadly includes a strong working knowledge of mandatory reporting laws, prevention policies, behavioral intervention, sexual assault and harassment, hazing prevention, investigation, athlete advocacy and outreach, and developing evidence-based models for addressing misconduct,” according to a press release. The council will focus on three primary objectives:
* Deliver an understanding of industry trends and best practices at the intersection of abuse and sport;
* Review and provide feedback concerning key operational documents, including complaint and investigation protocol, behavioral definitions, and policies and procedures; and
* Provide unbiased insight as an outside, third-party source.”
The board also approved $5.2 million of funding for the new entity over a five-year period beginning in 2015. Collectively, NGBs will match the USOC’s contribution, providing $1.04 million per year.
“One of the greatest challenges many NGBs face is limited resources and expertise to investigate claims of misconduct,” said Malia Arrington, USOC director of ethics and safe sport. “With this independent entity, we have the ability for the first time to provide that resource to them so we can create and sustain safe environments for young athletes.”
Consistent with the working group’s original recommendation and as unanimously endorsed by the NGB Council in 2013, participation in the new entity will be a condition of continued membership in the USOC.
Some industry observers are skeptical about the effectiveness of the center.
“The Center for Safe Sport is a poor substitute for Congressional action in the quest for accountability and oversight of the last generation’s legacy of abuse and cover-up at USA Swimming and other national sport governing bodies,” Irvin Muchnick, author of PENN STATE IN THE POOL: The Cover-Up of the USA Swimming Youth Coach Sex Abuse Scandal, told Sports Litigation Alert. “It is an expensive and ostentatious reboot of swimming’s failed Safe Sport program, and it is being funded and staffed by the same circle of private interests who view institutional exposure as a financial and PR problem.
“The model for this new agency is USADA, which leads to two further observations. First, many critics, myself among them, believe that USADA is far from agenda-free. So we are pessimistic that the Center for Safe Sport will be anything other than a selectively-targeting ‘sex police,’ rather than an agent of culture change.
“Second, I note that USADA’s CEO, Travis Tygart, himself has a background of covering up USA Swimming sexual abuse cases as a lawyer for the organization in the early 2000s. Swimming’s tip-of-the-iceberg banned list wasn’t even published until, I believe, eight years after Tygart left. That list includes, for example, confessed multiple youth athlete rapist Simon ‘Danny’ Chocron, at the Bolles Sharks, the club operating out of the Bolles School in Jacksonville — Tygart’s prep alma mater. Despite the obvious conflict, Tygart coordinated the National Board of Review case against Chocron. And Chocron continues in the swimming industry to this day — coaching in his native Venezuela. For my full take on Tygart, see https://concussioninc.net/?p=9441.
“In sum, I emphatically do not find this new agency credible.”