Ernst seeking investigation of U.S. Olympic Committee and handling of Nassar abuse

Panel would investigate handling of Nassar abuse

Sen. Joni Ernst speaks after a town hall meeting last March at Sinclair Hall at Coe College. Ernst and 17 other senators on Wednesday called for an investigation into the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics handling of the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Sen. Joni Ernst speaks after a town hall meeting last March at Sinclair Hall at Coe College. Ernst and 17 other senators on Wednesday called for an investigation into the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics handling of the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, joined a bipartisan group of senators Wednesday to call for a congressional investigation of the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics in the aftermath of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal.

Nassar, the sports doctor who was confronted in court last month by more than 150 young women alleging he had sexually abused them, has been given lengthy prison sentences.

Last week, Ernst and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, called on the chief executive of the Olympic Committee, Scott Blackmun, to resign after news reports said he was aware of allegations as far back as 2015.

Shaheen and Ernst, along with a number of other senators, are introducing a resolution calling for a special investigative committee.

Shaheen said 18 senators had signed on to the resolution. “We need to change the culture at these Olympic organizations,” she said.

The U.S. Olympic Committee is federally chartered, and Olympic athletes compete under the U.S. flag, Shaheen said, making it incumbent upon Congress to provide oversight.

The committee they’re proposing would have subpoena power.

At a news conference in Washington on Wednesday, Ernst said she was “disgusted” at the idea the allegations of abuse surfaced three years ago, and she questioned why Nassar wasn’t removed from his position.

She also praised the abuse victims.

“They have exposed a very dark truth,” she said.

The senators noted their resolution comes as the 2018 Winter Olympics is about to get underway.

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Ernst also said that it’s possible abuse victims might testify before the committee but said she wants to protect the privacy of athletes who don’t want to go public.

The U.S. Olympic Committee has promised an independent investigation into the Nassar matter.

It also said last week that it had been told of allegations against a doctor in 2015 and passed that information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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