The United States Olympic Committee has announced the formation of the SafeSport Working Group on Investigation, Adjudication and Sanctions. The working group is charged with making an informed recommendation to the USOC regarding possible models for sport organizations to use for the investigation, adjudication and sanctioning of prohibited conduct.
"Sport plays a significant role in the lives of children," said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. "We have to do everything we can to make sure that their exposure to sport is positive and not negative. We have to invest in creating safe environments. We have made good progress on that front, and I want to make sure we stay focused on putting the best possible systems in place. That is why this group is being assembled."
In 2010, the USOC convened the Working Group for Safe Training Environments and charged it with the task of developing a set of recommendations concerning misconduct in sport. The diverse group, which included individuals from the Olympic family as well as external experts, focused on 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
- Develop a set of recommendations to promote athlete well-being
Based on the group's report, in 2011, the USOC hired a director of safe sport tasked with developing a robust program to address misconduct in sport by providing information, training and resources. In early 2012, the USOC launched SafeSport, a welfare training program aimed at improving the safety of athletes.
Among the resources made available through the program is a handbook titled "Recognizing, Reducing and Responding to Misconduct in Sport: Creating Your Strategy," which aims to guide the development, implementation and internal review of effective athlete welfare and misconduct prevention strategies for local, regional and national sport organizations.
In addition to the handbook, a website ( safesport.org) was launched and offers downloadable material, including the handbook, best policies and procedure practices, video-based online training program, and other resources to identify the potential signs of abuse and the environments in which abuse can occur, along with direction on how to raise a red flag before any inappropriate behavior occurs.
Recognizing that legal guidance and assistance is required in some instances, a SafeSport Legal Referral Network was formed thanks to a group of generous firms and legal professionals committed to providing legal support to NGBs, free of charge, to aid them in appropriately investigating claims of misconduct.
"While the resources developed by the USOC are fantastic, and the pro-bono legal support provided has been amazing, we can always do more to ensure that children are protected and sport organizations are thriving," said Angela Ruggiero, who in addition to serving on the working group is the president of the Women's Sports Foundation's board of trustees and a member of the International Olympic Committee. "This working group will survey the resources currently available to NGBs, look at various models for investigating and enforcing misconduct in sport, and make a recommendation to the USOC on a clear way forward."
The working group will be chaired by Malia Arrington, USOC director of safe sport. Additional members include:
Margaret Hoelzer - Athletes' Advisory Council representative, Olympian (swimming)
Casey Jorgensen - USA Hockey general counsel
Sonja Keating - U.S. Equestrian Federation general counsel
Nina Kemppel - USOC board Athletes' Advisory Council director, USOC Working Group on Safe Training Environments chair
Margie Mara - USA Volleyball senior director
Michael Massik - USA Weightlifting CEO
Julie Novak - Big Brothers Big Sisters vice president of child safety
Steve Penny - USA Gymnastics president
Angela Ruggiero - International Olympic Committee member, Women's Sports Foundation board of trustees president
Susan Woessner - USA Swimming director of safe sport