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U.S. senators call for Olympic committee probe after Nassar scandal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Wednesday called for an investigation into the handling of sexual misconduct allegations by the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics, which have been criticized for not acting on complaints of abuse by former sports doctor Larry Nassar and others.

Nassar molested female athletes under the guise of medical treatment for nearly 20 years and has been given two prison sentences in Michigan of 40 to 125 years and 40 to 175 years. He is also serving a 60-year federal term for child pornography convictions.

The senators’ announcement comes two days before the House Energy and Commerce Committee is expected to receive written explanations of the handling of sexual misconduct cases by USA Gymnastics (USAG) and other governing bodies of organized sports.

“There’s now significant bipartisan support for establishing a special committee charged with the sole focus of investigating the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics,” said Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who announced the resolution with Republican Senator Joni Ernst as co-sponsor.

Victims and their advocates have criticized the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and USAG for not acting on the complaints against Nassar, including a 2015 investigation. USAG’s board resigned under pressure from the USOC.

FILE PHOTO: Dr. Larry Nassar, a former team USA Gymnastics doctor who pleaded guilty in November 2017 to sexual assault charges, raises his hand to be sworn in for his sentencing hearing in Lansing, Michigan, U.S., January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

“There are many disturbing questions that remain unanswered as to how Larry Nassar was able to freely abuse young girls for decades,” Shaheen told reporters.

Six Republicans and 12 Democrats have also signed onto the resolution to investigate the USOC, which operates under a federal charter. The Senate must vote on the resolution before a committee can be formed to hold an investigation.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Jean Shaheen (D-NH) prepares for a conference call at her office on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., December 21, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas/File Photo

While the House investigation is focused on sexual abuse in organized sport, the Senate investigation will look into the extent USAG and U.S. Olympics were complicit in the criminal or negligent behavior of their employees relative to sexual abuse.

A spokesman for Senator John Thune, who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee that has been investigating Olympic sex abuse claims, said a select committee was unnecessary.

The initial results from the House investigation are scheduled to be delivered on Friday.

Reporting by Katanga Johnson and David Shepardson; Editing by Ben Klayman and Susan Thomas

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