February 20, 2020
Dear AES member,
The U.S. Center for SafeSport continues to come under pressure for mismanaging its mandate to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct in our sport. This mismanagement consists of SafeSport’s faulty investigatory and disciplinary process.
As a result, SafeSport has embarked on a campaign to gain the trust of athletes and other stakeholders via town hall discussions. These town halls are being held in cooperation with the national governing bodies (NGBs) of sports under SafeSport’s jurisdiction.
Tomorrow, February 21st, in conjunction with the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), SafeSport has scheduled an on-the-record town hall discussion for 11am at the Wellington Club, 3400 Equestrian Club Rd., Wellington, FL 33414]. This town hall will take place during ongoing competition at the 2020 Winter Equestrian Festival.
Representatives from SafeSport and USEF will be present and available to address whatever concerns we have regarding SafeSport. They will answer our questions about the changes it is making to protect our community. This includes protection from continued exposure to sexual predators as well as ensuring that our legal rights are protected should a member be accused of sexual misconduct.
Here are just a few of the key questions that Athletes for Equity in Sport (AES) hope to have addressed during tomorrow’s open discussion of these important issues.
1. On February 5th of this year, the Center for SafeSport’s director, Ju’rese Colon, testified before the Senate regarding S.2330, the Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2019. This bill attempts to give athletes more control over the policies and procedures employed by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and SafeSport.
What is the Center’s understanding of how that proposed legislation would impact its procedures and policies, and what is SafeSport’s view of the pending legislation?
2. As part of her testimony, the Director stated that increased funding would be required to support SafeSport’s efforts. This raises the following questions:
• Is SafeSport planning to expanding its efforts?
• In what manner is SafeSport hoping to broaden its scope of activity?
• How much additional funding would be required?
• For what portion of the additional costs would the USEF be held responsible?
3. Also during Ms. Colon’s testimony, the Director laid out rough data regarding the volume of claims it has handled along with some basic information regarding the disciplinary actions taken against people involved in the Olympic movement.
Could you please break out the number of complaints that specifically involve claims of sexual misconduct, as opposed to those involving claims of verbal abuse, abusive training practices, and bullying?
4. It appears that as many as 85% of the complaints made to SafeSport do not result in disciplinary actions. Since we know that evidence of abuse can be difficult to gather, is it SafeSport’s policy to leave these files open in the event further evidence comes to light, or are such files closed for good?
5. Given that such a large number of cases have been deemed not actionable by SafeSport, has the Center found that any claims have been made in bad faith?
If so, what does SafeSport do with such claims? Is the case simply closed as being without merit, or does SafeSport investigate further the circumstances that motivated the claim?
6. One of the major fears associated with SafeSport claims arises from the danger to an individual’s reputation and business as a result of false or malicious claims. Redress for such claims — libel, slander and other related tort actions — would normally be the jurisdiction of the civil courts. However, it would seem that SafeSport has a vested interest in ensuring that its process is not abused by individuals bringing claims falsely and/or with malicious intent. This begs several questions:
• First, of the approximately [insert number here] non-actionable cases to date, has the Center been able to determine if any of those claims were intentionally made falsely and/or maliciously? Or does SafeSport abandon the investigation short of reaching such a determination?
• Second, if SafeSport has indeed determined that a claim was made falsely and/or maliciously, what actions has the Center taken to discipline that claimant?
• Third, could you please clarify whether or not threatening an individual with a claim to SafeSport in order to extort a specific outcome from that individual is in fact itself a violation of the SafeSport Code?
7. There recently have been reports of SafeSport decisions that were reversed in arbitration. We can assume that the Center devoted a great deal of time and money to defending these decisions.
Does SafeSport view reversed decisions as a defined standard to which all subsequent cases must conform — i.e., much as judges adhere to legal precedents — or does the Center take a different view of these reversed cases and their effect on future decisions?
8. Please share any plans to review and amend current SafeSport procedures, policies, and practices to ensure that the Center continues to evolve into a more effective service provider to the sports under its jurisdiction.
The U.S. Center for SafeSport was created to work for us, the participants in Olympic sport. Its purpose is to keep our athletes safe and promote an environment in which athletes can thrive and achieve their best results.
As stakeholders in this effort, it is incumbent upon each of us to be engaged in the process and assist in making SafeSport better for everyone. To that end, Athletes for Equity believe it is crucial for the Center to develop fair and comprehensive procedures that will ensure that it is successful in carrying out its mandate.
We believe that an open and transparent discussion of SafeSport issues will help guide the Center toward a process that is just and fair to everyone within its jurisdiction.
Please note: This town hall was originally scheduled for February 28th. Unfortunately, the date and time were changed with little notice given to USEF members.
That change, as well as scheduling tomorrow’s town hall to take place during active competition at the Winter Equestrian Festival and therefore at a time when many USEF members will be unable to attend, seems to indicate that SafeSport is not interested in reaching a large portion of our community.
Regardless, please make time to attend tomorrow’s town hall if at all possible. Help us press SafeSport and USEF representatives to address on the record those questions listed above along with other important questions you may have.
Thank you very much for your continued support.
President, Athletes for Equity in Sport
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