By Tim Ghianni
NASHVILLE (Reuters) - The Amateur Athletic Union on Tuesday announced measures to protect young athletes from sexual abuse after allegations of abuse were raised last year against a former president of the nation's largest youth sports organization.
The steps resulted from six months of study by two task forces.
They require all adults involved in AAU activities - from volunteer coaches to AAU staff - to undergo detailed background checks. This includes all current members of the staff or volunteers as well as those who come to the organization in the future.
"These new steps are not being implemented because we suspect anyone - rather, we must make these changes because we expect everyone to be willing to help us build a deeper trust and culture of safety," AAU President Louis Stout said at a press conference from its headquarters in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
The new policy says young athletes should never be left alone with individual adults, according to Ron Sachs, president of Sachs Communications, a spokesman for the AAU.
Under the new policy, "anyone who is prohibited from participating in an organization that serves youth or who violates the AAU's child protection policies should be barred from participating in AAU activities, even if they have not been convicted of a crime." Such individuals will not even be allowed to be spectators, Stout said.
The task force report contains 42 changes in AAU policies, procedures and protocols.
The review was begun after allegations of abuse were leveled at former AAU President Bobby Dodd by two former youth basketball players. Dodd never faced criminal charges but the AAU severed contact with him after the allegations.
Attempts to reach Dodd through his attorney were unsuccessful.
The issue of sexual abuse of athletes exploded onto the national scene last year when former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was charged with 52 counts of sexual abuse against 10 boys. His trial began this week, and one accuser testified that he was repeatedly abused by Sandusky.
AAU has 700,000 registrants and between 65,000 and 70,000 volunteers every year. It is the leading group that showcases young athletes seeking college scholarships in sports.
(This story has been corrected to clarify timing of allegations in first paragraph)
(Editing by Greg McCune and Dan Grebler)