Senate approves DeGette legislation to reform U.S. Olympic Committees
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate today approved legislation to begin the process of reforming the U.S. Olympic Committee in the wake of several high-profile sexual-abuse scandals that have raised doubts about the USOC’s ability to properly care for our nation’s top athletes.
The bill includes legislation DeGette introduced in the House last June to create an independent, blue-ribbon commission to study and reform the nation’s top sports governing body.
Specifically, the legislation would appoint a 16-member independent commission – to be made up of, at least, eight Olympic or Paralympic athletes – that will be tasked with studying how the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee operate and provide Congress a list of recommendations to better protect the nation’s top athletes.
“No amount of gold medals are worth putting the health and safety of our athletes at risk,” said DeGette, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations panel, which oversees the nation’s Olympic-related activities. “When the very body that Congress created to care for our athletes becomes more concerned about winning, and protecting a brand, than the athletes themselves - it’s time for change.”
If approved, the panel would have nine months to provide Congress a list of specific changes that should be made to better protect our nation’s top athletes going forward.
Specifically, the panel will be asked to evaluate, among other things, how responsive the national governing bodies for each Olympic sport are to its athletes, and how athletes can be better represented in a system that only functions because of them.
It would also be asked to review the diversity of the USOPC’s board members, its finances and whether it’s effectively achieving its own stated goals.
The commission will be given subpoena power to complete its inquiry; and each commission member will be required to have extensive experience as a coach, athlete or sports-related advocate.
Congress gave the USOPC exclusive power to govern all Olympic-related athletic activity in the U.S. in 1978.
On Thursday, DeGette and others introduced in the House a companion bill that mirrors the legislation the Senate approved today. She and others will now be working to get that bill approved in the House as soon as possible.