Allegations that former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky abused children rocked the U.S. sports world in late 2011. (Getty Images)
(ATR) The U.S. Olympic Committee has launched a Safe Sport program to protect athletes from misconduct and maltreatment within their training environments.
The initiative is particularly relevant following reports in the last year of sexual abuse at Penn State University and within the AAU.
An 80-page handbook has been distributed to all national governing bodies and a website is expected to be up later this month. In addition, a network of law firms will offer free services to NGBs to investigate claims.
“I think of all the things we do, this is likely to have a very significant impact,” CEO Scott Blackmun said Friday following the USOC Board of Directors meeting in Silver Spring, Md. “I think clearly we have an issue in the U.S., if not around the world, and I think giving the NGBs and some of the local clubs some tools that can help them to address a problem that we would all say is one that needs to be addressed, is exactly the kind of leadership role the USOC should be playing.”
Blackmun said the budget for the development and implementation of the program is hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“This isn’t just a one-time thing where we’re issuing the handbook and launching a website,” he said. “We are going to continue to stay focused on this and try to make a difference.”
In 2010, a Working Group for Safe Training Environments had four primary objectives: address sexual and physical misconduct in sport, review the guidelines across sport and sport-related organizations
for responding to these issues, assess the needs of athletes, coaches, staff, National Governing Bodies, clubs and other sport organizations, and develop a set of recommendations to promote athlete well-being.
Last year, the USOC hired Malia Arrington as its first director of ethics and safe sport.
Closer, but Not There Yet on Revenue Sharing
Blackmun said chairman Larry Probst gave a “robust update” on the USOC’s international relations efforts, including ongoing negotiations with the International Olympic Committee on the controversial revenue-sharing agreement, before he left the meeting early for personal reasons.
Blackmun said the USOC and IOC had some good meetings in Innsbruck during the Youth Olympic Games and have continued to have discussions since then.
“We exchanged thoughts as recently as yesterday,” Blackmun said. “We remain optimistic. I would admit we are closer today than we were two months ago, but we’ve got a ways to go, so we’re moving in the right direction, and all indications are still good.”
Blackmun said they are still “working in good faith” to reach agreement.
The USOC relies on money from NBC, the Olympic broadcaster in the U.S., for support. Blackmun told the board that the USOC will receive a large payment from NBC after the 2012 London Olympics.
Gary Zenkel, president of NBC Olympics, briefed the board about NBC’s partnership with the USOC and plans for the broadcast from London.
Written by Karen Rosen.
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