Lawmakers Respond to Ex-Gymnastics Doctor’s Sex Scandal

From left, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and former U.S.A. gymnastics national team members and abuse survivors Dominique Moceanu, Jeanette Antolin, Jamie Dantzscher, and Mattie Larson, hold a news conference on legislation to prevent future abuse of young athletes, on Capitol Hill, Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (CN) – The fallout from the trial of Larry Nassar, the former sports doctor sentenced last week to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing young female gymnasts, spurred Congress to pass a bill Tuesday requiring amateur athletic associations to quickly report claims of abuse to police.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who sponsored the legislation, announced the bill Tuesday during a press conference.

The bill, approved by voice vote Tuesday, requires amateur athletic organizations to immediately report sexual abuse allegations to law enforcement and improve oversight of their gyms, coaches and other associated programs.

Feinstein’s bill was first passed by the U.S. Senate in November, long before Nassar – who worked for USA Gymnastics, the governing body that trains Olympians – was sentenced to 40 to 175 years in state prison last Wednesday by Michigan Judge Rosemarie Aquillina.

After a change to the legislation was made by the House of Representatives, however, the bill went back to the Senate for a voice vote, which happened Tuesday afternoon with bipartisan support.

The bill is now on its way to President Donald Trump’s desk for a final signature.

State laws on reporting sex abuse currently vary considerably – finding a broad framework to apply to organizations like USA Gymnastics and others that travel between states or internationally poses a challenge.

Under Feinstein’s bill, federal law would impose a penalty of one year in prison for people who fail to report a sexual abuse allegation at their organization.

The statute of limitations to sue an alleged perpetrator will also be extended to age 28 or up to 10 years after reasonable discovery of the violation, whichever is later.

The bill will also require governing bodies for athletes to enforce “reasonable procedures” limiting one-on-one interactions between minors and adults except in emergencies.

Enjoying wide bipartisan support, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who also chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said once the president signs the new bill, he will commit himself to “do the oversight that is necessary” to ensure the law is properly enforced.

Jeanette Antolin, a member of the U.S. national gymnastics team in the 1990s, was one of Nassar’s victims.

She said Tuesday that she was satisfied with the legislation but the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University – Nassar’s other former employer – must still be investigated thoroughly.

“Time’s up. Every minute that goes by with unanswered questions, more innocent children can be harmed,” she said, according to the Associated Press.

Nassar’s sentence of 40 to 175 years came after he pleaded guilty to 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct last November. Two victims were under 16 when the abuse happened and another was under 13. He has been accused of sexual abuse by more than 150 women and girls.

The disgraced sports doctor was also sentenced last year to 60 years on child pornography charges, so that even before last week’s sentencing he was likely to die in prison.

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