Updated: Aug 25, 2020
U.S. Athletic Trust/Olympians Rising has been working to support athlete rights since its inception in 2000. In 2018 we made a strategic decision to pivot our focus from direct athlete support, to broader efforts to reform the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), which has been and is beset by scandal, resource allocation issues, inefficiency and poor performance. Spurred on by the Larry Nasser scandal, we published among others an open letter on March 16, 2018 (reported in The Wall Street Journal) to the USOC Board and Executive leadership asking for their resignations. We then hired a lobbying firm, Bracewell, promoted the formation of a Congressional panel to review the USOC, made policy recommendations, and participated in several Congressional hearings. Since our letter in March 2018, most of the top executive senior leadership has resigned/been terminated from the USOC. While these departures seemed promising, the ethos and powers controlling the USOC are entrenched. A compliant board is intact, and executive leadership has been replaced with like-minded insiders, albeit women. Athletes remain systemic victims of financial, sexual, and health abuse.
Several Olympians and supporters have built upon our and their reform efforts (www.usopu.info) , and continued to make progress guiding the reform effort in 2019-20. Recall that the USOPC is a federally chartered corporation that has an exclusive right (from Congress) to commercialize the Olympic Rings in the U.S., which now generate over $1.5 BN a year throughout the system. Practically, this system has never been subject to effective oversight, nor has an outdated Amateur Sports Act of 1978 kept up with changes in our Olympic sports system. 42 years later, Congress is finally ready to act.
After a series of hearings from 2016-2019, in 2019 The Senate Commerce Committee introduced Senate Bill 2330, which was modified and then passed by unanimous consent on 8/4/20. The bill materially strengthens athlete and whistleblower protections, oversight of the USOPC, and importantly authorizes a 16 person Commission to review the USOPC and its NGBs, hold public hearings, and produce a final report that will be the basis of legislation re-writing the 1978 Amateur Sports Act. The Commission will have a paid staff, and subpoena power. Companion House Bill 7881 has also been introduced and is expected to pass unanimously in September. Once the bill is signed by the President the real behind the scenes work begins.
While many have great hope that a substantive reform of the US Olympic System is at hand, other veterans of this battle are less sanguine. They remember how the insiders controlling the USOPC and their allies (media entities, legal advisors) have weathered all reform efforts since 1980, sometimes even taking advantage of them to strengthen their power. Creating substantive and enduring reform will be challenging, but with the right resources, very possible in 2020-22. Which is why we need your support. You can significantly enhance the likelihood of a positive outcome to reform efforts by helping USAT:
A-influence the passing of this legislation, and success of this Commission
B-lead a meaningful re-writing of the federal law that governs the USOPC
C-re-order the system’s priorities, governance, and board, making our athletes the focus, and impacting sport development, access and opportunity, to all Americans regardless of income, race, gender, or disability.
We believe that our reform plan can prevail against a lobbying effort by the USOPC, IOC, and media companies to maintain the status quo. Join us in this worthy effort for social justice in sport. It is challenging to identify charities that can really move the needle--this is one that can. You can have a historic impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of American youth training for the Olympic Games by joining our effort.
August Wolf OLY
Founder and President
U.S. Athletic Trust/Olympians Rising