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USA Wrestling requiring background checks, SafeSport training for journalists covering events

April 16, 2018 Updated: April 16, 2018 at 7:24 am
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United State's Kyle Dake, left, takes India's Sachin Giri to the mat during their 79 kg match in the Freestyle Wrestling World Cup, Saturday, April 7, 2018, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Journalists covering USA Wrestling competition will be required to pass a background check and take U.S. Center for SafeSport's online training.

"We're not doing this because we've had any incidents," USA Wrestling executive director Rich Bender said Sunday. "We think it's a great opportunity for taking a step forward in creating safe environment for kids in wrestling. We think it's the right thing to do."

The USA Wrestling national staff, coaches, referees, medical staff, state leaders, club leaders, event directors, volunteers and vendors already were required to pass the background check and take Safe Sport training.

Journalists who complete the training and background check will be issued a media membership card. The cost of the background check, which runs about $20, will be paid by USA Wrestling, Bender said. The background check is usually completed in three days.

USA Wrestling leaders have not spoken to leaders of other Olympic national governing bodies about the change in credentialing for journalists.

"We didn't want to wait for other people to get involved," said Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling's director of communication. "We wanted to get it started right away in our sport and then present the idea to the rest of the sports community."

The new policy is effective immediately, Bender said. Journalists covering the Open Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas April 24-28 will be required to pass the background check and take Safe Sport training. Previously issued credentials will not be honored.

Bender said he realizes some will believe the changes have been inspired by the Larry Nassar gymnastics scandal that left Americans outraged. Nassar has been accused of abusing hundreds of youthful gymnasts.

"Some would say this was spurred from the gymnastics case," Bender said.

"We say it's a really positive step and the right thing to do. We're doing all we can to protect our sport."

A lot of steps are being taken to screen and pay attention to adults who are around kids."

SafeSport, based in Denver, was founded in 2017 to combat bullying, hazing, sexual misconduct and emotional or physical abuse in American athletics.

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