Senate unanimously passes athlete sexual abuse legislation

By Sara Shayanian and Daniel Uria  |  Updated Jan. 30, 2018 at 7:17 PM
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Jan. 30 (UPI) -- The Senate passed a bill Tuesday requiring amateur sports governing bodies to report sexual abuse allegations to law enforcement within 24 hours.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., will be sent to President Donald Trump for approval after being passed by a unanimous vote in the Senate.

The U.S. House of Representatives also passed the bill Monday by a vote of 406-3.

Prior to the Senate vote, Feinstein pledged to help deliver a final push on federal legislation aimed at protecting athletes from sexual abuse, in light of the case against former Team USA gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

Speaking to reporters and standing among legislators and gymnasts -- including Sens. Suzanne Collins, Bill Nelson and Chuck Grassley -- the California Democrat said the culture that facilitates such abuse must be changed.

"USA Gymnastics was fostering a culture that put money and medals first, far ahead of the safety and well-being of athletes," Feinstein said, adding that reforms were only possible due to the "courageous women" who came forward to speak about their experiences.

"The bill addresses a patchwork of state reporting laws, making it mandatory for anyone affiliated with any governing body or amateur spots organization to report sexual abuse to local and federal law enforcement or social service agencies within 24 hours," Feinstein said. "This would apply to USA Gymnastics and each of the 46 national governing bodies that oversee a variety of Olympic sports."

The bill would also apply to college athletics, Feinstein said. The victims would be entitled to $150,000 in damages.

The legislation also extends the statue of limitations until victims realize they have been abused.

"This is especially important in the case of young women," Feinstein said. "They didn't know what happened to them was sexual until later in life."

USA Gymnastics came under fire in recent months after Nassar, a former Team USA gymnastics doctor, was accused of sexual abuse by over 150 young girls and women.

Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in prison last week after he was convicted on seven counts of criminal sexual conduct, a first-degree felony.

Sexual abuse survivor and a former member of Team USA's Magnificent Seven gymnastics team, Dominique Moceanu, said the passing of the bill was a "huge victory" and a "positive turning point" in the sport.

However, "There's still much work to be done," Moceanu said.

Later Tuesday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott requested an investigation into allegations of sexual assault at Karolyi Ranch -- the U.S. Olympic training facility where some gymnasts have said Nassar abused them.

"The public statements made by athletes who previously trained at the Karolyi Ranch are gut-wrenching," Abbott said in a statement. "Those athletes, as well as all Texans, deserve to know that no stone is left unturned to ensure that the allegations are thoroughly vetted and the perpetrators and enablers of any such misconduct are brought to justice. The people of Texas demand, and the victims deserve, nothing less."

USA Gymnastics said it was ending its relationship with the ranch, which will no longer serve as the National Training Center.

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