NEW SafeSport Law is Huge Step in Right Direction to Eliminate Abuse

Sexual assault scandals in Olympic sports has become an issue that has overshadowed many of the sports themselves.

This issue has grown in the past several years, especially with the Larry Nassar gymnastics case, the #MeToo movement, and the case involving Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors and then coach Sean Hutchison.

In the past, one of the biggest issues was governing bodies not wanting to publish lists of banned coaches for fear of being sued by those banned individuals.

But the new federal law this year – the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and SafeSport Authorization Act – protects SafeSport and the national governing bodies from defamation lawsuits without proof of actual malice.

The new federal law protects SafeSport and the national governing bodies from defamation lawsuits without proof of actual malice.  “The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) can no longer cite an ongoing independent investigation as its reason for delaying change,” said a spokesperson for for Ropes and Gray law firm that has conducted independent investigations on this subject.

The law was groundbreaking in regard to organizations being able to let their athletes know who was banned without fear or legal action.

Ropes & Gray showed the biggest problems are not individual predators, but the structural flaws from the governing bodies of sports and the USOC.

A big problem the investigation found was in the notification system. Some sports have published banned lists of coaches, some have not. SafeSport, officially created in 2017 as a USOC department, now handles all USOC cases. They are working to add those banned prior to 2017 to their list.

The case-by-case notification and enforcement still depends on parents, other coaches and officials. That is a lot of responsibility on the families of alleged victims.

But this new SafeSport law takes a lot of pressure and responsibility away from the victims and places it back on the organizations, who now are hopefully prepared to act immediately.

The law has been overshadowed by many other parts of this issue which continue to take the spotlight — but this law could be the most important thing in the long term as athletes, coaches and officials work together to keep everyone informed.

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