WASHINGTON, DC -- Iowa Senator Joni Ernst wants to start an investigation into USA Gymnastics and its leadership in the wake of the sexual abuse investigations of former team doctor Larry Nassar.
"The reprehensible actions of this so-called doctor have been exposed, yet there are still so many questions that remain," Ernst said on Wednesday as she and New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen announced they are sponsoring a resolution that would create a special committee to investigate the gymnastics organization. Nassar has been sentenced to more than 200 years in prison for sexually abusing Olympic gymnasts and Michigan State University athletes who were under his care.
Shaheen and Ernst have both called for the USA Olympic Committee's CEO to resign after reports surfaced that the group failed to act on abuse claims they were aware of as early as 2015. "The US Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics need to be held accountable," Shaheen says.
The special committee would compel members of the US Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics to give testimony in public. Ernst says she wants to know why immediate action wasn't taken when leaders first heard about abuse allegations and why they failed to protect young athletes.
"These are just the few question I have and that the abused and their families deserve answers to," Ernst said, "As Iowa native and Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson East recently said 'The fact that a system that was supposed to protect children has failed them so badly is so wrong.' I couldn't agree more with Shawn."
Johnson-East made those comments in a video on YouTube last month. She has called on USA Gymnastics to clean house. Johnson says she was not among the dozens of athletes who came forward to testify against Nassar and read victim impact statements at his sentencing.
Johnson's coach, Liang Chow of Chow's gymnastics in West Des Moines, has not been accused of any wrongdoing. He was a coach for the Olympic team while Nassar served as team doctor. We have reached out to Chow and his gym repeatedly for comments about the allegations against Nassar. They have declined to comment on Nassar or the investigation into USA Gymnastics and the US Olympic Committeee.