When Congress authorized the U.S. Center for SafeSport, it decided to not directly fund the organization that was supposed to independently investigate sexual abuse across all Olympic sports. Instead, it set up a grant—which, it turns out, couldn’t be used to pay for the investigators that SafeSport needs. That meant money for those jobs would have to come from either the U.S. Olympic Committee or other national sports organizations, many of which also are groups from which SafeSport is supposed to act independently. It’s a pretty massive and obvious conflict of interest.
But this doesn’t seem to bother Congress. Instead, at least one U.S. senator thinks deepening the conflict of interest is progress. Last month, Sen. Chuck Grassley sent a letter to the USOC asking for an update on what had been done since the congressional hearings into sexual abuse within the Olympic movement. The response came this week from a lawyer for the USOC from high-profile Washington law firm Covington and Burling.
The letter to Grassley, signed by lawyer Brian D. Smith, says the USOC plans to increase the money it gives to SafeSport from $3.1 million last year to $6.2 million this year. The Iowa Republican’s office announced this with a press release that included a quote from Grassley saying, “The U.S. Olympic Committee’s plan to provide additional resources to the Center for SafeSport demonstrates that it is taking claims of abuse and misconduct more seriously.” That’s really something considering that last month the USOC’s CEO, Sarah Hirschland, told the New York Times about SafeSport, “Funding is not the issue; it’s capacity and growth rate.”
So, in summary: Funding is not an issue, until a U.S. senator says it is an issue, but the money will come from the organization that SafeSport is supposed to independently watch over, but everyone still swears that SafeSport is independent.
The letter uses familiar language from previous USOC scandals. They will host an athlete town hall. They are doing more background checks. And they are creating a commission “to study and report on the manner in which the Olympic Committee engages with national governing bodies and athletes.” Because what the Olympic movement really needed was another commission.
The full letter to Grassley is below: