USOPC spends $20 million more on employees than athletes in 2019
USOPC has spent more than $24 million in legal expenses last two years with dozens of sex abuse lawsuits looming
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee reported its fiscal year revenue and expenses for 2019. Without the Tokyo Olympics, the USOPC lost more than $50 million. (AP File Photo/Leo Correa, File)
By SCOTT M. REID | | Orange County Register
PUBLISHED: August 3, 2020 at 2:40 p.m. | UPDATED: August 3, 2020 at 2:51 p.m.
At a time when the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has repeatedly pledged to athletes, Congress and the public that it would become more athlete-centric, the organization spent nearly $20 million more in 2019 on its employees than it did on direct financial support to American athletes training for the Olympic Games and other major international competitions.
USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland received more than $800,000 in compensation from the USOPC and other related organizations and was the highest paid employee for the Colorado Springs tax-exempt, non-profit that reported $51 million in employee related expenses in 2019, according to financial records released by the USOPC Monday.
Hirshland in a letter to the USOPC membership Monday stated that “Athlete and NGB foundational program funding rose 28% from 2018, to just over $30 million in 2019, representing an increase in programs focused on athletes’ safety, career and education programs, athlete representation initiatives across our Olympic and Paralympic community.”
The records, however, show that the USOPC spent nearly $31.7 million on athlete performance/support training, elite athlete health insurance , a national health network, the Operation Gold bonus program, and athlete tuition/career assistance, almost $20 less than the organization’s employee expenses.
Hirshland’s USOPC compensation of $785,716 is more than the $731,470 the organization paid to interim CEO Suzanne Lyons and Hirshland in 2018.
The USOPC reported $193.68 million in revenue in 2019, down from $322.8 in 2018, the drop largely related to 2018 revenue related to the Olympic Games in South Korea that year. The organization had $248.3 million in expenses in 2019, down from $275.14 in 2018, leaving the USOPC with a reported $54.6 million shortfall in 2019.
The 2019 figures are based on the organization’s Internal Revenue Service filing and its financial statement for the fiscal year 2019. Hirshland reported this past April that the organization would be forced to make as much as $200 million in budget cuts through 2024 because of the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games and the coronavirus pandemic. Hirshland at the same time pledged to take a 20 percent pay reduction. The USOPC and its NGBs have experienced a series of lay-offs and buy outs during the pandemic.
“It was a year in which we made some of the most sweeping governance changes the USOPC has ever seen—not for the sake of change, but because we believe it will improve athlete well-being and develop a stronger system of accountability,” Hirshland said in the letter. “ We ended 2019 a very different organization—in culture, in mindset and in how we operate—and we are better positioned to steward the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movements than we have ever been before.”
But the financial records also reflect the USOPC’s focus on corporate sponsors and the impact the sexual abuse scandals in USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming and other USOPC-sanctioned national governing bodies has had on the organization.
The USOPC spent nearly $26 million in legal related expenses in 2018 and 2019. By comparison the organization paid out $667,300 in legal expenses in 2017. The $8.15 million the USOPC spent on legal in 2019, was roughly $600,000 more than the organization contribution to the operation of the U.S. Center for SafeSport. The USOPC also spent $180,366 on lobbying in 2019.
At a time when the USOPC is facing dozens of lawsuits related to the alleged sexual abuse of former U.S. Olympic and USA Gymnastics women’s national team physician Larry Nassar, and other former U.S. Olympic, USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming, USA Taekwondo coaches and officials, the organization has moved more than $24 million in the last two years to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation.
USA Gymnastics in February filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court a proposed a settlement agreement that would pay the 500-plus Nassar survivors $217 million, but also would release the USOPC, former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny, former U.S. National team coach Don Peters, former national team directors Bela and Martha Karolyi, 2012 Olympic coach John Geddert and others from “any and all claims arising from or related to Abuse Claims or Future Claims.”
Records also show that the USOPC paid $7.8 million to Jet Set Sports, a New Jersey firm specializing in Olympic-related corporate hospitality. The USOPC also paid NBC Universal $4.8 million in 2019.
Another part of the USOPC’s 2019 filing with the Internal Revenue Service is also likely to draw criticism. The USOPC states in the document “THE USOPC DETERMINED THAT IT IS SOMETIMES BENEFICIAL FOR THE CEO AND BOARD MEMBERS TO HAVE GUESTS ACCOMPANY THEM TO PARTICULAR EVENTS, SUCH AS THE OLYMPIC GAMES. IN SUCH CASES THOSE EXPENSES CAN BE PAID BY THE USOPC…”