Larry Nassar

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Investigators at home of Olympic gymnastics coach tied to Larry Nassar

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GRAND LEDGE, Mich. (AP) — Police on Tuesday assisted state investigators at the Michigan home of a gymnastics coach who had ties to disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar.

The Lansing State Journal posted photos of a man with a police coat carrying a box away from John Geddert’s house in Grand Ledge, west of Lansing. There were others at the scene.

Police Chief Thomas Osterholzer said officers “assisted the attorney general’s office this morning within the city of Grand Ledge.” He declined to offer any other details. The Eaton County sheriff’s office also provided support.

The attorney general’s office declined to comment. A message seeking comment was left with an attorney who has been representing Geddert in civil lawsuits.

Geddert in 2012 was head coach of the U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team, which won a gold medal. Nassar, a doctor at Michigan State University, was the team’s doctor and also saw injured gymnasts at Twistars, Geddert’s Lansing-area gym for elite athletes.

Nassar has been sentenced to decades in prison for sexually assaulting gymnasts with his hands and possessing child pornography.

Geddert has insisted he had “zero knowledge” of Nassar’s crimes, although some gymnasts said he was physically abusive and forced them to see Nassar.

Geddert was suspended by USA Gymnastics. He told families in 2018 that he was retiring and transferring management of Twistars to his wife.

Athlete abuse watchdog starts series of hearings on Larry Nassar case and beyond

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The Game Over commission, a group founded by child-abuse prevention think tank CHILD USA, is taking its first major step in an independent investigation of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse case and related institutional issues with a public hearing Monday in Philadelphia.

The daylong hearing is being live-streamed.

After a series of hearings and other investigative work, Game Over plans to come up with a list of recommendations to reform U.S. sports. Once the work is complete, its data will be available to the public.

The hearing opens this morning with testimony from abuse survivors. This afternoon at 1:15 p.m. ET, the session will move into a discussion of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the evolution of SafeSport efforts. At 2:30 p.m. ET, a panel of journalists will describe how they investigated reports of abuse, including the Nassar case.

Nassar has been sentenced to multiple lengthy prison sentences in the wake of sexual abuse accusations by hundreds of gymnasts. Michigan State University, which employed Nassar, reached a $500 million settlement in 2018 with the 332 survivors who had come forward at that time.

Prominent sexual abuse complaints have also been raised in other Olympic sports, including swimming, diving, taekwondo, figure skating and speedskating.

Concurrently, Olympic sports federations launched various internal watchdog efforts and in 2017 established the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a body akin to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

The cases have been investigated multiple times so far. In July, U.S. senators Jerry Moran and Richard Blumenthal released a report summing up their investigation and wrote the Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2019, which would give Congress direct oversight over U.S. sports federations. The bill has not advanced out of committee. Neither have overlapping bills by Rep. Diana DeGette and Sen. Cory Gardner.

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Overhaul would give Congress power to fire USOPC board

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A bill spurred by Larry Nassar’s sex crimes and other mishandled abuse cases would allow Congress to fire the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s entire board and would quadruple the money the federation provides to the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

The bill, to be introduced Tuesday, is the most far-reaching response to 18 months of outrage, investigations and recriminations in the wake of the USOPC’s handling of the cases involving Nassar and others who combined to victimize dozens of Olympic athletes.

“The best way for the USOC and the national governing (bodies) to show they’re serious about stopping abuse is to support this legislation,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas. “It’ll be a test to their commitment to turning a new page and bringing in a new era.”

The bill would increase athlete representation on the USOPC board and boards of other Olympic sports organizations (NGBs) from 20 to 33 percent.

It would make the USOPC and NGBs legally responsible for not reporting sexual abuse or failing to take measures to prevent it.

The law calls for the USOPC to provide $20 million a year to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, but offers no specifics as to how the additional $15 million will be funded.

The USOPC, which receives no federal funding, gave $3.1 million in 2018 and NGBs doubled their pledge to a total of $2 million.

Last year, Congress provided a $2.2 million grant to the center that was spread over three years and could not be used for investigations.

Blumenthal said having a concrete number that’s separate from the Congressional appropriations process is a better way of ensuring the success of the center and the USOC’s responsibility for funding it. The USOC brings in around $500 million over a typical two-year period.

But as much as the money, this bill is a virtual top-to-bottom reset of the Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act, passed in 1978 during a time when the biggest concern was corralling the amateurism and cronyism that festered throughout Olympic governance in the United States.

The law was hazy, at best, regarding the USOC’s power to dictate to the NGBs it oversees. It said even less about athlete welfare and what, if any, legal repercussions existed for failing to protect them.

Those flaws created an environment that allowed Nassar to abuse dozens of gymnasts while volunteering for USA Gymnastics, and for his crimes to go unchecked for more than a year after the concerns were first presented to the USOPC.

This bill, called the “Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2019,” would attempt to change that, in part by leaving little gray area about the USOPC’s oversight responsibilities of NGBs, especially in regard to sex abuse.

It calls for the USOPC to renew an NGB’s standing every four years, subject to a review that would include how the organization is complying with safe-sports rules. It gives Congress the right to decertify an NGB.

It would also eliminate the tactic currently being used by USA Gymnastics, as it faces decertification: filing bankruptcy to forestall the proceedings.

And though the USOPC has always had to answer to Congress, the stakes would be much higher — and written in plain black and white.

The 14-person board, which has gone largely — and, in many minds, inappropriately — unscathed in a series of damning reports that detailed the failings of the federation, could be dismissed by a simple majority vote in Congress.

The bill includes language that would expedite the vote, while also giving lawmakers the tricky task of figuring out how the board would be replaced.

USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland said that while the bill complements the federation’s push for reforms, it “could result in unintended consequences and disruption for athletes in operational reality.”

For instance, the $20 million to SafeSport, along with the increased oversight and added audits and compliance measures, could impact funding available for training. Luring board members for a volunteer position (but one with perks) could be more difficult with the threat of Congressional pink slips hanging over their heads.

Adding athletes to those boards, and eliminating a requirement that they be no more than 10 years removed from elite competition, will create various challenges for the USOPC and the NGBs — most related in some way to finding enough functional business and current-day sports experience to run these confusing operations.

The bill, and the process that led to it, involved lawmakers digging into far more detail than they usually care to know regarding the day-to-day operation of the byzantine Olympic sports world — a world that has provided them an easy platform for flag waving without having to sweat the small stuff.

But given the bipartisan nature of this bill — and similar bipartisan outrage displayed during hearings on the House side — there appears to be more will to dig deep and push for change in the wake of the abuse scandal, the victims of which have captured as many headlines as any gold-medal winner since Nassar’s crimes became widely known.

“The simple stark fact is that the USOC has taken some baby steps, but they’re nowhere near the kind of major reforms that need to be done,” Blumenthal said.