March 29, 2019

Sexual Abuse and Bullying In Sport: Balancing The Rights Of Accused And Accusers

Issues of athletes being abused by people in positions of power relative to them, particularly coaches, officials and other athletes, have come to the fore in the past decade as a result of scrutiny first arising from the issues at Penn State and more recently from the issues of abuse by a team doctor (Larry Nasser) for the USA Gymnastics team, who was also a resident team doctor at Michigan State University.  This brought the scandal into the center of the Olympic movement in the United States.  What occurred was, to say the least, brutal, criminal, and completely shocking. 

These scandals brought down top sports administrators for improperly handling the cases as they were reported or arose.  Prior to these scandals, sport, and the various institutions that govern it, lacked significant direction or a standard and methodological approach to dealing with these issues.  We can now see this in hindsight.  Now, the UK, Australia and the United States are at the leading edge of regulation in this area. 

In the United States in particular, there is extensive regulation of abuse of athletes in the sport context, particularly in Olympic sports.  On January 1, 2017, the US Center for SafeSport (“SafeSport”), created by the work of a broad, cross-sectional United States Olympic Committee, went into business.  Immediately following the sentencing of Larry Nasser, the number of athlete reports of abuse skyrocketed.  In addition, the US Congress got involved and passed amendments to the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act (“TSOASA”) to require reporting by governing body officials of abuse allegations and to recognize the role of SafeSport in the US Olympic sports environment.

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