Click here to watch the Senator’s questions during the hearing.
WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan today participated in the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection hearing titled, “Olympic Abuse: The Role of National Governing Bodies in Protecting Our Athletes,” where she commended the bravery and courage of survivors of sexual abuse and highlighted the importance of holding those responsible accountable in order to prevent further abuse.
Witnesses at the hearing included athletes Jamie Dantzscher of USA Gymnastics, Jordyn Wieber of USA Gymnastics, Craig Maurizi of US Figure Skating, and Bridie Farrell of U.S. Speedskating. All of the witnesses are survivors of sexual abuse by coaches, leaders, or doctors in their respective sports, including by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar who recently received a 175-year prison sentence after sexually abusing more than 150 women over the course of two decades.
“To all of the witnesses, I am so profoundly grateful for your leadership and your courage in revisiting some of the most painful moments of your life all in order to help prevent others from enduring what you guys have endured,” Senator Hassan began her remarks. “You are world-class athletes. You are heroes. And you are survivors.”
Senator Hassan asked the witnesses who they view as most responsible for the abuses they detailed in their testimony, highlighting the importance of holding those responsible accountable.
In response to Senator Hassan asking, “Who [do] you believe to be most responsible for allowing these abuses to continue and also what cultural factors in your training fostered an atmosphere in which these abuses could begin and continue for so long?”
Mr. Maurizi replied, “The various rinks and figuring skating clubs that I was a member of a participated in. My coach, I learned later had to move from club to club to club because allegations surfaced about his treatment of his athletes… they shared the rumors that they heard, but it’s difficult to prosecute somebody on rumors I guess, so everybody knew about it.”
Ms. Farrell replied, “In terms of who, I would say it really goes back to the men that are listed in the report that was given out, they knew about it, there was the same thing with the man that repeatedly molested me, he was known to be this person, but there was actually a report and it was swept under the rug.”
Ms. Wieber replied: “When I think about who is most accountable, obviously as I said USA Gymnastics, USOC, and Michigan State, but if you look a little bit deeper than that I think it all started when the Karolyis who brought USA gymnastics to where it is now, when they came over from Romania they brought a lot of those training styles over and a lot of the abusive training styles and I think that USA Gymnastics started to see that it was winning medals and they were getting lots of money and then as a result I think that training style kind of seeped into the personal coaches across the nation. The cultural issues they start with the Karolyis and that training style.”
Ms. Dantzcher replied: “As far as the most accountable I would obviously agree with Jordan as it was very similar to my experience.”