Congress approves legislation to reform U.S. Olympic Committees
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congress today approved legislation to reform how the U.S. Olympic Committee operates in the wake of several high-profile sexual-abuse scandals that have raised doubts about the organization’s ability to care for our nation’s top athletes.
Included in the bill is legislation that was originally introduced and championed by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) to create an independent, blue-ribbon commission to study – and eventually help reform – how the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committees operate.
Under the terms of DeGette’s legislation – which is now headed to the president’s desk to be signed into law – Congress will appoint 16 members to serve on the commission that will be tasked with studying and recommending changes to improve how the nation’s top sports bodies are run.
The legislation requires that at least eight members appointed to the commission are either Olympic or Paralympic athletes.
“Most of our Olympic athletes dedicate their lives to representing our country on the world stage,” DeGette said. “Today, we are making good on our promise to protect them. When the organization that was created to care for our nation’s top athletes becomes more concerned with winning and protecting its brand, it’s time for change – and this legislation will ensure our athletes have a say in the process.”
Once established, the independent commission created under DeGette’s bill will have nine months to report their findings and recommendations back to Congress.
The panel will be asked to specifically evaluate, among other things, how responsive the national governing bodies for each Olympic sport are to its athletes and assess how athletes can be better represented in a system that only functions because of them.
It will also be asked to review the diversity of the USOC’s board members, its finances and whether it’s effectively achieving its own stated goals.
Dozens of former Olympic athletes and USOPC officials have called on Congress to act since allegations against former USA Gymnastics team doctor, Larry Nassar, first came to light. Such calls grew even louder after investigators later learned USOC officials had known about the alleged abuse, but did nothing to protect the athletes.
A copy of the legislation is available here.