Were you or a loved one sexually abused while participating in an Olympic-affiliated sport? You probably have many questions.
Our experienced sexual assault attorneys can help. Tens of thousands of young women may be eligible to pursue a civil lawsuit, fighting for financial compensation and accountability. Learn more about your legal options in a free consultation today.
Learn more: Child Sexual Abuse: What Are My Legal Options?
In thousands of civil lawsuits, young women and their loved ones accuse the United States Olympic Committee of turning a blind eye or actively facilitating the widespread sexual abuse and exploitation of young, female athletes.
Continue Reading: Child Sex Abuse In Youth Sports Organizations: Lawyers For Victims
Our attorneys have launched a full investigation into the United States Olympic Committee's sexual assault policies and individual sex assault cases, along with university programs affiliated with the USOC.
Were you or a loved one abused by a coach, employee or volunteer in Olympic sports? You are not alone. Thousands of other survivors have stepped forward to report similar cases of sexual abuse. We believe you. Your story matters and we can help you draw up the courage to tell it.
Coming forward can be extremely difficult. Many sexual assault survivors fear being labeled, or not being believed. Other survivors feel that they won't be taken seriously. We are here for you every step of the way.
Recent lawsuits have sought to hold several university systems, including the University of Southern California, Ohio State University and Michigan State University accountable for their alleged roles in the abuse. We are investigating individual cases of alleged sexual assault, sexual abuse, molestation and sex trafficking.
Our compassionate attorneys are here to help. No matter what happened to you, we want to fight for you. Sexual abuse of any sort is unacceptable. We believe the responsible parties must be held to account. That is our only goal. We fight every day to support survivors as they make the brave decision to step forward and raise their voices for change.
To learn more about your legal options, contact our experienced sexual assault lawyers today for a free consultation.
The United States Olympic Committee, then known as the United States Olympic Association, was chartered by the US Congress in 1950, creating a single framework to promote and train Olympic athletes for international competition.
It didn't work as planned. Amateur sports in America was still disorganized and fractious, which led Congress in 1978 to pass the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act.
The Sports Act empowered the USOC to create national governing bodies for each Olympic sport. Today, there are 47 of these governing bodies, a recent class action (PDF) against Ohio State University notes, "ranging from USA Archery to USA Wrestling."
Beneath the national governing bodies are thousands of coaches and clubs who operate as members of their respective national governing bodies, leveraging the prestigious association with Olympic sports to attract new students. About 11 million children work with USOC-affiliated coaches and clubs in America.
But the Sports Act also sought to hold the USOC accountable. According to federal law, the United States Olympic Committee is charged with promoting and protecting the safety and wellbeing of young athletes.
No goal was more important than ensuring that each national governing body kept its athletes out of harm's way, especially from sexual abuse. In fact, the USOC is vested with the power to force national governing bodies to adopt policies and procedures intended to protect athletes from harm.
We already know that the USOC has failed to uphold its sworn obligation. The recent crisis in USA Gymnastics, in which more than 300 young women have come forward to accuse Larry Nassar, now a convicted sex offender, of abusing them, is testament enough that the USOC did not do everything in its power to protect young athletes.
The USOC has admitted to its failure multiple times. In a January 24, 2018 open letter to young athletes, then-CEO Scott Blackmun wrote, "we are [...] sorry that you weren't afforded a safe opportunity to pursue your sports dreams. The Olympic family is among those that have failed you."
USOC board member Susanne Lyons has made similar noises in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal. In an interview with the Washington Post, Lyons said, "I think we all feel, in hindsight, how could we have let this take so long? All up and down that food chain, there were failures in the system that I think everyone regrets."
USA Gymnastics waited a full five weeks before reporting Nassar to the FBI, even though it knew earlier that the physician was abusing young women under the guise of medical treatment, USA Today reports.
Then, after learning of Nassar's misconduct, neither USA Gymnastics nor the USOC made any attempt to inform Michigan State University, where Nassar continued to work with young athletes. The organization routinely dismissed allegations of sexual abuse, including those leveled against four gymnastics coaches who went on to abuse more children.
And the man tasked with personally investigating claims of sexual abuse, USA Gymnastics' former-CEO Steve Penny, it was revealed in 2016, had never undergone USOC-sanctioned abuse prevention training.
These are failures not only of USA Gymnastics, but of the United States Olympic Committee itself, the recent class action says, because the national governing bodies are simply agents of the Committee.
Now, there are strong signs that the USOC's alleged misconduct goes far beyond gymnastics. "The USOC is motivated by only two things: medals and money," the complaint reads. "In reality, the USOC has decided to sacrifice the safety and welfare of its athletes for the trappings of fame and fortune that accrue to its executives."
Sexual abuse and exploitation is rampant throughout USOC-controlled sports, according to damning new allegations leveled by young athletes in thousands of their own sexual assault lawsuits. None of this was hidden from the United States Olympic Committee, court filings allege.
A Washington Post investigation has revealed that, since 1982, over 290 coaches and officials associated with the USOC and its national governing bodies have been hit by sexual misconduct allegations in public court documents, police reports, media reports and the notorious "ban lists" maintained by each USOC-affiliated sports organization.
More than 175 of those accused coaches and officials have been convicted for sex crimes. It's a scandal of enormous proportions, write Washington Post reporters Will Hobson and Steven Rich, one fueled by a "culture in which limiting legal risk and preserving gold medal chances have been given priority over safeguarding children."
Sexual abuse, lawsuits and media investigations suggest, is part and parcel of the USOC life. In her class action lawsuit against Ohio State University, one survivor of USOC-linked sexual abuse makes this point absolutely clear, writing:
"By 2014 the USOC knew that sexual abuse of children was widespread in the U.S. Olympic Sports Movement. The USOC is fully aware of the pervasive amount of child rape in its member [national governing bodies]." Similar allegations have appeared in thousands of other civil lawsuits.
The problem isn't limited to USA Gymnastics, says Katherine Starr, a former Olympic-level swimmer and sexual abuse survivor. Sexual misconduct goes to the core of the United States Olympic Committee, Starr told the Washington Post.
"The problems in gymnastics are equally as prevalent in every other sport," Starr said. "It stays in the system because of governance, because of the people in charge." Starr founded Safe4Athletes, a nonprofit organization, to help combat sexual abuse in Olympic sports.
Despite the extraordinary prevalence of sexual abuse in Olympic sports, the United States Olympic Committee didn't even begin to implement its Safe Sport program until 2012, two years after the idea had first occurred to high-ranking executives, court documents state.
Similar abuse prevention schemes have been common in youth sports organizations since the early 1990s, but criminal background checks and mandatory abuse education for coaches and other participants are only now making their way to USOC-affiliated sporting entities.
Today, in light of Larry Nassar's horrific crimes, along with similar scandals in USA Taekwondo and USA Swimming, we know the Safe Sport program didn't work very well. In fact, things got so bad that, in 2017, Congress was forced to take action, passing the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act. The law provides victims of sexual abuse in Olympic sports with a new and powerful set of tools to hold their abusers accountable.
Striking out at the "corrupt system" that allowed so many young women to suffer sexual abuse in Team USA sports, Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, explained the Sports Abuse Act by saying it would "reform the law that allows victims to sue sex-crime perpetrators by extending the statute of limitations because it's often difficult for children to recognize that they have had crimes committed against them until much later on into adulthood."
The statute of limitations is like a time limit for filing a lawsuit. File your lawsuit after the statute has run out and your case will almost certainly be dismissed. The new statute of limitations begins on the date that you discover, through reasonable means, that you were violated or injured in some way due to a violation. It runs for 10 years. Previously, the statute of limitations was 10 years beginning on the date of abuse.
Victims who are minors at the time of the abuse have also been given longer. Minor victims now have 10 years from their 18th birthday to file suit.
Olympic sports is big business. In 2016, the United States Olympic Committee generated $339 million in revenue, including $169 million in broadcast rights. On average, the organization pulls in about $230 million every year.
Billions more come from the organization's TV and licensing deals. A 2014 deal with NBC Sports to broadcast the Olympics through 2032 was valued at nearly $8 billion.
Former-CEO Scott Blackmun made $1.25 million in salary in 2013. All of this money is earned, the Ohio State diving club lawsuit claims, off the backs of "athletes who wear Team USA uniforms," who are required to sign "commercial terms" with the USOC.
In fact, most young athletes are required to pay the very adults who sexually abuse them, the class action alleges. In order to participate in sanctioned competitions, athletes are required to pay dues to their national governing board. These dues go, in part, to fund the financial grants through which coaches are paid, along with the sports clubs through which they work.
Instead of going to worthy endeavors, like protecting young athletes from sexual abuse, the money is used for less-honorable purposes, the class action continues.
"Despite having hundreds of millions of dollars to spend on the safety and wellbeing of the athletes whose labor earned this money, the USOC [...] decided over the last two decades to not pay for reasonable compliance or security measures to ensure that coaches or other executives were not sexually abusing, exploiting, or trafficking female athletes - even though they knew this abuse was occurring."
Even worse, portions of the dues paid by young athletes go to purchase sexual abuse insurance, which each national governing board is required by the USOC to hold. The USOC and its national governing boards are a "sham," the plaintiffs write, financial juggernauts built on the labor and exploitation of their member-athletes.
Many observers would find it disgusting that even the USOC's Center for Safe Sport, an entity created to investigate reports of sexual misconduct, has sponsors, including NBC Sports, the National Basketball Association and the Women's National Basketball Association.
USOC's executives loved their "lavish lifestyles," the complaint states. "These officials," the legal document continues, "did not want to jeopardize their income or the hundred-million-dollar revenues of the USOC and its [national governing boards] by stopping the sexual abuse committed by coaches." It would have been bad for business, the lawsuit claims, to "blow the whistle" and stand up for young athletes.
This litigation will only grow. More and more young women are poised to step forward. Our attorneys believe thousands of female athletes who worked with USOC-affiliated coaches and practiced at USOC-affiliated clubs have yet to come out of the shadows, but with more astonishing revelations on the way, it's only a matter of time.
Tens of thousands of young women may be eligible to file their own sexual assault lawsuits, pursuing financial compensation and accountability from the United States Olympic Committee, national governing bodies, college and university programs and individual coaches.
If you or a loved one were abused while participating in an Olympic-affiliated sport, our experienced personal injury attorneys can help. If you need someone to talk through your emotions with, our dedicated legal team is here for you. We will treat your case with the utmost confidentiality; we understand how sensitive and deeply personal this can be.
Just know that your story matters. You deserve to be heard. No one can silence you. It's your choice, one of the hardest decisions anyone can be asked to make. But when you are ready to make this brave choice, we are here to offer a guiding hand. You can learn more about your legations options in a free consultation today. Contact us now to see if you qualify.