Friday, March 24

US Center for SafeSport reports USA Hockey to Congress for potential interference in investigation: Sources

US Senator Chuck Grassley sent a letter Friday to USA Hockey concerning the national governing body’s “cooperation” and “compliance” with the US Center for SafeSport’s policies and investigations. The US Center for SafeSport investigates claims of sexual misconduct within the US Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s purview.

In the letter, addressed to USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher and president Mike Trimboli, Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, reminded USA Hockey of their legal obligations under the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act of 2020, which requires national governing bodies to protect athletes from sexual abuse; under the law, NGBs also have the duty to immediately report any “reasonable suspicion” of child abuse to both law enforcement and the Center.

“As the Nassar case exemplifies, inaction may lead to many more victims being harmed, which would be intolerable,” Grassley wrote, referencing the case of Larry Nassar, who sexually abused hundreds of young female gymnasts.

The law referenced by Grassley requires the US Center for SafeSport to report to Congress within 72 hours “any attempt to interfere in or influence the outcome of an investigation” by a national governing body. The US Center for SafeSport reported USA Hockey earlier this week, multiple sources confirmed to TheAthletic.

It is not immediately clear the nature of the investigation being conducted by the US Center for SafeSport. A spokesperson for the Center declined to comment on the investigation, citing the Center’s policy for ongoing probes. USA Hockey was not immediately available for comment.

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Previously, the US Center for Safesport reported to Congress that USA Badminton had potentially run afoul of the law based on allegations that it was discouraging reporting of sexual misconduct, encouraging concealment and destruction evidence on the subject and refusing to cooperate with the Center’s investigation, according to a letter published by Grassley’s office in October 2021.

In that case, Grassley’s office warned USA Badminton officials of its legal obligations and also advised that Grassley had alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation about the concerns.

USA Hockey has come under scrutiny for how it handled allegations of sexual misconduct. Former USA Hockey president Jim Smith was investigated by the US Center for SafeSport because of allegations he mishandled claims of sexual abuse involving former prominent Chicago-area youth and college hockey coach Thomas “Chico” Adrahtas. The matter was closed by SafeSport, but Smith later announced he would not seek re-election, referencing these allegations and telling members of the need to be “totally united as we move forward.”

USA Hockey is a co-defendant in a May 2021 federal lawsuit brought by victims of Adrahtas. The complaint alleges that Smith and others within USA Hockey and AHAI (Illinois’ amateur hockey state governing body) were told about the coach’s sexual misconduct and did not report the allegations to law enforcement or investigate the matter. USA Hockey filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit in September, asking the court to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim.

(Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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