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Shaheen, Ernst call for Senate to investigate Larry Nassar case

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Joni Ernst are calling on the Senate to investigate USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee's handling of the Larry Nassar case.

A group of U.S. senators are calling for a special congressional committee to investigate how the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics handled sexual abuse allegations against sports medicine doctor Larry Nassar, who has been accused of molesting 265 girls and women over two decades.

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, also called for Olympic Committee chief executive Scott Blackmun to step down in the wake of revelations that the committee was informed of the nature of Nassar's crimes in 2015 and took no action.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen wants the Senate to investigate the Larry Nassar case.Bloomberg / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Shaheen said the resolution they have drafted has the support of 12 Democrats and six Republicans, and she believes the number will continue to grow. The formation of the special committee would compel officials from both organizations to testify in public.

"This was not a simple case of negligence or failed oversight," Shaheen said, adding that there is "ample evidence" that adults were "alerted multiple times to Nassar's behavior and found excuses to look the other way."

USA Gymnastics has said it first learned of allegations against Nassar in the summer of 2015 and took action immediately.

But the organization's own timeline disclosed that it called in a private investigator before contacting the FBI five weeks later. It also did not notify Michigan State University, where Nassar had his medical practice, of the investigation. And it had one Olympian sign a non-disclosure agreement as part of a settlement.

The U.S. Olympic Committee also came under fire last month amid reports that its head of security received an email in September 2015 outlining allegations against Nassar. The USOC says Blackmun never saw that email and that it didn't need to act because the FBI was already involved.

At least six Olympians — including four of the 2012 "Fierce Five" squad — have said they were abused by Nassar. Some of them have blamed USA Gymnastics for creating conditions ripe for a predator to attack vulnerable girls.

Ernst said as she read reports in recent weeks of the missed opportunities to stop Nassar, her anger grew.

"I was disgusted," she said. "I was outraged."

Nassar was sentenced on Monday to 40 to 125 years in prison for abusing three girls at the Twistars gym, owned by his close associate, ex-Olympics coach John Geddert, who is now under investigation.

During the sentencing hearing, parent Randall Margraves asked the judge to give him five minutes alone with Nassar and then lunged at the cowering convict, only to be wrestled to the ground by deputies.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., a Michigan State alumna who supports the resolution, said when she heard about the disruption, "I thought I would have liked five minutes with this guy."

"I wished the security could have been a little slower in restraining him so he could have gotten a couple of punches out," she said.

The Michigan Attorney General's office is investigating MSU's handling of allegations against Nassar, which allegedly go back to 1997 and went unheeded until a newspaper exposed him in the fall of 2016.

The U.S. Olympic Committee launched a third-party investigation of its own, hiring two former federal prosecutors to prepare a public report. It did not respond to a request for comment on the Senate resolution.

In a statement, USA Gymnastics said it "supports an independent investigation that may shine light on how abuse of the proportion described so courageously by the survivors of Larry Nassar could have gone undetected for so long and embraces any necessary and appropriate changes.”