February 9, 2018 / 12:02 AM / 8 months ago

Congress opens second investigation into USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers on Thursday began a second congressional investigation into the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Gymnastics (USAG) and other gymnastic organizations over a sexual abuse scandal that led to the conviction of the sport’s former top medical doctor.

FILE PHOTO: Dr. Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, raises his hand to be sworn in for his sentencing hearing in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

A U.S. House of Representatives committee asked the organizations for training materials, other documents regarding medical consent procedures and how complaints and reports of abuse are handled, according to letters sent by the panel.

The former sports doctor, Larry Nassar, last year pleaded guilty to molesting female athletes under the guise of medical treatment for nearly 20 years and has been given two prison sentences in Michigan of 40 to 125 years and 40 to 175 years. He is also serving a 60-year federal term for child pornography convictions.

A Michigan judge said on Jan. 31 that so far 265 girls and women had accused Nassar of sexual misconduct. More than 150 girls and women recounted their stories of abuse in court.

Dozens of the victims, including international stars such as Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles have accused officials at the USOC, USAG and Michigan State University - where Nassar also worked - of failing to investigate complaints stretching back decades.

Republicans and Democrats on the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Thursday said they want to understand what failed within each of the groups and why. Letters requesting the information were sent to the gymnastics governing bodies, Michigan State University, Karolyi Training Camps and Gedderts’ Twistars USA Gymnastics Club.

“The Committee is investigating how Nassar’s crimes were able to occur, let alone persist, for over two decades,” the committee said in its letters. Each is “at the center of many of these failures,” the panel said.

Another panel, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is investigating sexual abuse in organized sports more broadly. The governing bodies have until Friday to submit written responses on questions from that panel about their handling of sexual misconduct cases.

On Wednesday, 18 senators asked to create a special panel on sexual misconduct issues in athletics to investigate USAG and the USOC.

The board of directors of USA Gymnastics stepped down after U.S. Olympic officials threatened to decertify the governing body. The USOC has announced an independent investigation into its own conduct and that of USA Gymnastics.

Reporting by Katanga Johnson; Editing by Susan Heavey and Grant McCool

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