WASHINGTON (AP) – The Senate is poised to respond to the sex abuse scandal involving sports doctor Larry Nassar by approving legislation that requires governing bodies for amateur athletics to quickly report claims of abuse to law enforcement.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the bill’s main sponsor, said at a press conference that the bill could pass the Senate by voice vote later Tuesday. The measure would then be sent to President Donald Trump for his signature. The House overwhelmingly approved the legislation on Monday.
Nassar was sentenced last week to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing more than 150 women and girls over 25 years. Nassar worked at Michigan State University and for USA Gymnastics, the governing body that also trains Olympians.
Former gymnast Jeanette Antolin, who was a member of the U.S. national team in the late 1990s when she went to Nassar for treatment, said the legislation is an important step forward. But Antolin said the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State all need to be investigated thoroughly to determine how “such heinous crimes were allowed to go under the radar” for so long.
“Time’s up,” Antolin said, a nod toward the movement against sexual abuse and harassment. “Every minute that goes by with unanswered questions, more innocent children can be harmed.”
The Senate first passed the legislation in November, well before Nassar’s sentencing. But the House made a change to the legislation, which requires the Senate to pass it again.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the Judiciary Committee chairman, said after Trump signs the bill into law he will “do the oversight that’s necessary” to ensure its requirements are properly followed.
A patchwork of state laws on reporting suspected sex abuse made it necessary to enact a uniform national standard that would apply to amateur sports groups such as USA Gymnastics as well as to other sports organizations that participate in interstate and international travel, according to the bill’s backers. The failure to report a sexual abuse allegation could lead to up to one year in prison.
The legislation also extends the statute of limitations for victims to sue alleged perpetrators, recognizing that children sometimes don’t realize they were abused until years later. The statute of limitations was extended to age 28 or up to 10 years after the reasonable discovery of the violation, whichever is later.
The legislation also requires the governing bodies for amateur athletes to put in place “reasonable procedures” to limit one-on-one interactions between minors and adults, except in emergencies.