USOC to offer help for safe training environments

The U.S. Olympic Committee plans to standardize guidelines outlining safe training environments for its athletes.

With recent reports about sex-abuse cases in swimming bringing the issue under the microscope, the USOC appointed four-time Olympic cross country skier Nina Kemppel to lead a 10-person task force, which expects to complete the project over the summer.

On Thursday, Kemppel told The Associated Press she hopes to produce a list of recommendations for the national governing bodies for the Olympic sports to follow.

"It's going to be a tool kit of best practices," she said. "For smaller NGBs, this picture may look very different than for larger NGBs. It's the key things of being really effective and promoting safe environments for kids."

There are more than 30 Olympic sports, and this marks the USOC's most concerted effort to offer some guidance.

"The top priority of the USOC and our national governing bodies is the safety of our athletes," USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said. "We want to take a comprehensive look at practices and guidelines in order to give sport organizations more resources to create positive training atmospheres and, above all, safe environments for all athletes."

At a meeting last week, the CEOs of the NGBs discussed best practices for conducting background checks on coaches. Background checks are a key part of any sex-abuse-prevention program, but they're imperfect because they mainly focus only on people who have been in the legal system.

Earlier this month, USA Swimming adopted parts of a seven-point plan designed to beef up its plan to protect children. Part of the plan was to publish a list of banned coaches; the list came out Wednesday, and included former USA Swimming national team director Everett Uchiyama.

The USOC did not want its move portrayed as a direct reaction to the problems at USA Swimming, though Kemppel did acknowledge this is a good time to confront the issue.

"It's timely right now," she said. "The fact we haven't done this before doesn't mean it hasn't been on the top of peoples' minds. Now is an ideal time to look into it."

Also on the task force are a person from the insurance industry, a psychiatrist, a child-welfare lawyer and representatives from the national governing bodies, including figure skating and diving.