THE COMMITTEE TO RESTORE INTEGRITY TO THE USOC; OUR RECOMMENDATIONS FOR AN "ATHLETES FIRST" OLYMPIC COMMITTEE

THE COMMITTEE TO RESTORE INTEGRITY TO THE USOC

OUR RECOMMENDATIONS TO CREATE AN ATHLETES FIRST CULTUREAT THE U.S. OLYMPIC MOVEMENT

JANUARY 21, 2019

Introduction

The Committee to Restore Integrity to the USOC appreciates that the CEO of the USOC,

Sarah Hirshland, reached out and met with representatives of Team Integrity when she was in

New York City on January 16, 2019. The Ropes & Gray and House Subcommittee Reports laid

bare the USOC’s broken culture, one that put "money and medals" ahead of athlete safety and

welfare, many of them children. The USOC has responded that it will reorient itself to put

"Athletes First."

Our aim with these suggestions is to assure that "Athletes First" is not just a public relations

slogan, but that the necessary culture-shift is manifested by embedding it into the structure and

governance of the organization. The departures of Scott Blackmun and Alan Ashley did not

magically change the culture of the USOC. Other incremental changes are not appropriate with

the momentous changes called for in the two Reports. What is needed now are concrete and

demonstrable changes to the structure and governance of the USOC to send a clear message that

the U.S. Olympic movement is no longer operating "business as usual."

We discussed and now submit the following twelve proposals. They are designed to reorient

the USOC down a new path, to empower athletes and to truly make the USOC an "Athletes

First" organization.

Team Integrity is looking forward to a response regarding each proposal, and further

discussions with the USOC on these and other recommendations.

1. THE OLYMPIC MOVEMENT CAN ONLY PROTECT ATHLETES BY

SHIFTING POWER, REQUIRING THE FOLLOWING GOVERNANCE

CHANGES:

a. PROVIDE FOR DIRECT ATHLETE REPRESENTATION ON THE USOC

BOARD OF DIRECTORS.

Remarkably, the elected-athletes that make up the AAC do not have the right to appoint

representatives to the USOC Board. Worse, there is no requirement that the USOC or NGBs

listen to anything the AAC says or does. The USOC cannot become an athlete-centric

organization without direct representation on the Board, chosen by the AAC.

Recommendation:

Revise the USOC Bylaws and the Sports Act to provide for direct representation of

individuals to the USOC Board by the AAC. The Corporation should not choose who will

represent the athletes.

b. DESIGNATE 50% OF THE USOC BOARD SEATS FOR ATHLETES

The Sports Act, written in 1978, represented a compromise between the power professional

athletes enjoyed – 50% voting rights, labor law, union rights – as contrasted with NCAA

athletes, who had zero voting rights. Olympic Athletes were supposed to get 20% voting power

on Boards and Committees. Unfortunately, the USOC and NGBs diluted even this 20% power

over time. Often the NGB picked the athletes for their Boards and Committees, rather than the

AAC or the athletes voting from the sport. In addition, the 20% rule still allows the Corporation

to ignore the athlete voice. The 20% figure is out of step with the change in athlete-status;

Olympians have been professional athletes since at least 1992, but no changes were made to the

Sports Act to reflect this new reality.

Recommendation: Olympics athletes, as professionals, should constitute 50% of the USOC

and NGB Board and committees.

c. REMOVE THE TEN-YEAR RULE TO BE CONSIDERED AN

"ATHLETE."

The Sports Act specifies that an "Athlete", eligible to serve on the AAC, is either actively

engaged in amateur athletic competition, or has represented the United States in international

amateur athletic competition within the preceding 10 years.

With these restrictions, USOC staff complain that it is hard to find athletes that will perform

the required duties of AAC membership. Competing athletes often cannot meet the demands of

being a world-class athlete and live up to the expectations of AAC membership. Athletes that

have finished competing are typically behind the personal and professional curve as compared

with their peers and are playing "catch-up" with new family and career demands.

The ten-year rule means the AAC members are inherently young as compared with

executives they are negotiating against. Practically, most athletes have aged out of being able to

represent their peers before their 35th birthday.

Some sports will get better, more sophisticated representation than others. Female gymnasts

have the youngest average ages, and are therefore unlikely to rise to AAC leadership, while

Equestrian, Shooting and Cycling could potentially have 60 year-old representatives.

Eliminating the 10-year rule will greatly expand the potential pool of candidates for AAC

membership, will put all sports on an equal footing, will allow for more experienced and

knowledgeable representation, and allow for equal bargaining between the USOC and athletes.

d. COMPENSATE ATHLETE REPRESENTATIVES

In addition to being young, AAC members are uncompensated, unlike the corporate

employees. This puts athletes at an enormous bargaining disadvantage, in terms of preparation

time and focus. USOC staff is well-compensated; athletes working for the movement should also

be compensated.

e. ESTABLISH A 2-4 YEAR FIREWALL BETWEEN SERVING ON THE

AAC AND EMPLOYMENT AT THE USOC, NGBs, AND THE U.S.

CENTER FOR SAFESPORT

A recurring issue has been athletes that are angling to work for the USOC get their toe in the

door via the AAC. These athletes have created, and continue to create, conflicts for the AAC,

when they do not want to take positions that would not be well-received by the Corporation. If

athletes are on the AAC as a doorway into working for the corporation, they are unable to be

good advocates for athletes.

Recommendation: Athletes looking for long-term employment in the Corporation should

either refrain from representing athletes on the AAC, or be required to refrain from corporateemployment for two-to-four years. The firewall should similarly apply to those corporate

employees wishing to work for the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

f. PROVIDE THE AAC WITH PROFESSIONAL STAFF

The chair of the AAC has no lawyer, no advisors, no secretary, no research assistants to

perform the duties of being the voice of America’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Such

assistance is warranted and should be provided.

2. ATHLETES MUST BE AFFORDED BETTER WHISTLEBLOWER AND

RETALIATION PROTECTIONS.

The threat of retaliation is so strong that over 25 athletes have told us that they cannot

publicly sign on to Team Integrity’s petition, not because they are not fully in accord with our

goals and strategies, but because of the backlash and retaliation that they’ve witnessed or

experienced by the USOC and NGBs. A parent told us that when they participated in a formal

complaint, they jeopardized their child’s opportunity to participate in the Olympic Games. Some

sports exploit subjective criteria for Team Selection procedures, making the athletes obedient

and compliant, or else risk not making the Olympic Team. The AAC and its Chair, Han Xiao,

have spoken with USOC leadership about the seriousness of this concern.

Recommendations: The USOC must adopt whistleblower protections against retribution and

retaliation against athletes or their representatives who complain of unfair treatment by NGBs.

In addition, the USOC can be a leader in the Olympic movement in this area by making

amends for the retaliation athletes and others suffered during the Blackmun era.

3. THE USOC MUST COMPEL NGBs TO COMPLY WITH THE SPORTS ACT

AND USOC BYLAWS.

The USOC does not require its member NGBs to comply with the "mandatory requirements"

of NGB membership set forth in the Sports Act and the requirements laid out by the USOC’s

own bylaws and policies. Scott Blackmun and the USOC failed and refused to bring "Section 8"

enforcement proceedings against known non-compliant NGBs. Rather, the USOC required

athletes and their parents / supporters to retain counsel to bring "Section 10" enforcement

proceedings against their non-compliant NGBs. Although compliance with all the Sports Act/

USOC Bylaws/ Policies are important, many of them are specifically designed to protect athletes

from abuse.

Recommendations: Reinstate the Membership and Credentials Committee, or the equivalent

thereof, comprised of representatives from the NGBC and AAC, along with staffing from the

USOC, including those from the Audit Division of the USOC, to review and compel NGB

compliance.

When necessary, promptly commence enforcement proceedings under Section 8 of the

USOC Bylaws if and when more informal processes are not successful in obtaining compliance.

4. THE USOC MUST PROVIDE ATHLETES WITH THE SAME DUE PROCESS

REQUIREMNTS THAT IT MANDATES NGBs PROVIDE ATHLETES.

The Sports Act requires the USOC’s member NGBs to provide "fair notice and opportunity

for a hearing" before denying athletes the opportunity to participate in amateur athletic

competition. However, the Sports Act presently does not impose those same due process

requirements on the USOC itself; and the USOC has surprisingly taken the position that it is not

itself required to provide the due process to athletes that it is obligated to mandate its member

NGBs provide athletes.

Recommendations: Revise the Sports Act and USOC Bylaws to require the USOC to

provide athletes the same due process requirements NGBs are required to follow in Section

220522(a)(8) of the Act.

Revise the Sports Act and USOC Bylaws Due Process requirements so that the provisions

apply beyond the athlete’s opportunity to compete; specifically, that Due Process applies to all

athlete-abuse issues.

5. THE USOC MUST PROTECT AMERICIAN ATHLETES’ OPPORTUNITY TO

COMPETE.

Section 9.1 of the USOC Bylaws reads, "[the USOC] shall, by all reasonable means, protect

the opportunity of an amateur athlete to participate if selected (or to attempt to qualify for

selection to participate) as an athlete representing the United States…" Under Scott Blackmun,

the USOC refused to follow this corporate Bylaw. Instead, the USOC left it to the athlete to

protect their rights under the Sports Act. Athletes alone had to file a Section 9 Complaint and

proceed before the American Arbitration Association. The USOC gives the NGBs money for

defense lawyers, but offers the athlete no legal counsel for these complicated hearings. Even if

the athlete prevailed, the athlete could not recover attorneys’ fees at the conclusion of the

arbitration. The athlete would just get what they should have received initially, but they are now

significantly poorer. Moreover, there was no protection from retaliation during the arbitration;

(see #2 above.) America has lost some of its best talent to resolvable conflicts. This obligation to

enforce its duties under Article 9.1 should also extend to the protection of all athlete-abuse issues

(see #4 above).

Recommendation: The USOC must weigh in on the side of the athlete to protect their

opportunity to compete and other rights, and comply with its own Bylaw 9.1. This is an

"Athletes First" Bylaw, and is specifically intended to protect athletes from abuse and from

arbitrary and wrongful actions of an NGB denying an athlete the opportunity to compete.

6. CREATE AN ATHLETE ADVOCATE POSITION, WITH STAFF.

Congress created the Athlete Ombudsman position in 1998 amendments to the Sports Act to

provide independent advice on their rights. But the office has been coopted by the Corporation; it

no longer serves to advocate for athletes. To our knowledge, the current Ombudsman’s office has

not mediated any conflicts for athletes.

As described in #4 above, individual athletes do not have access to independent, professional

USOC-paid attorneys that are available to advise and represent them when there is a conflict

with the Corporation or their NGB.

To state the obvious, there are times when the interests of the Corporation and the athletes, as

a group, diverge. The AAC also needs professional representation, on par with the representation

that the Corporation receives.

Accordingly, the AAC and individual athletes should have access to a professional USOCpaid attorney available to advise and represent them, independent of the USOC and without a

fee. This way, athletes will not be dependent on finding legal counsel willing to donate their

services on a pro bono basis to represent them in matters against attorneys paid by USOCfinanced NGBs.

Recommendation: The Sports Act should be revised to provide for a new position with

staff, an Athlete Advocate office, to provide confidential legal advice to the AAC and to athletes,

to advocate on their behalf and represent athletes when appropriate, including adversarial

proceedings to protect the rights granted to them under the Sports Act and/ or the USOC Bylaws

and policies.

7. ESTABLISH AN OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL.

Up until now, the USOC has largely been dependent on the direction it takes from the good

judgment of its paid leadership and volunteer Board. That model failed under Scott Blackmun, as

detailed by the two Reports. Blackmun convinced the Board that the USOC could not help

athletes in conflict with their NGBs, an indefensible position that was never true. Just the

opposite; Congress and the corporate Bylaws mandated that the USOC to protect athletes. In

addition, the Board was not critical or independent enough in its own thinking to provide the

necessary oversight of the CEO. Finally, the staff was either not willing or strong enough to

stand up to the CEO. Sometimes this was true because the staff were the beneficiaries of the

doubling and tripling of salaries, the largess that resulted from of the culture of using the fiverings for self-enrichment. Other times, staff learned not to oppose the CEO because the costs

were too high; staff were retaliated against or marginalized for doing so.

Recommendation: Congress should provide for greater oversight through the creation of an

Office of Inspector General for the USOC. The Integrity Committee endorses and advocates the

creation of an Office of the Inspector General concept as set forth in the written testimony of

Han Xiao, the elected Chair of the AAC, in his submission of written testimony to the Senate

Commerce Subcommittee on July 24, 2018.2

"….Congress should establish an autonomous authority to receive complaints

confidentially, investigate facts, and report on necessary corrective action for the USOC,

NGBs, and other actors within the Olympic and Paralympic movement, such as the U.S.

Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the U.S. Center for SafeSport. The role of this authority

would be like that of an Office of Inspector General that would oversee a federal or state

agency. While the Inspector General would communicate with the USOC, ideally the

position would report to the Senate Commerce Committee and the AAC, rather than directly

to the USOC. Most of the same qualifications, authorities, and responsibilities outlined in the

Inspector General Act of 1978 and subsequent amendments in 2008 should also apply to this

new office. Congress may wish to further examine some of the key questions regarding who

appoints the Inspector General, what authorities are given to this position, and the reporting

mechanisms for the position. One potential model, for example, would have the Inspector

General appointed and removed by the Chair of a separate Senate committee, most likely the

Senate Judiciary Committee, and require the Inspector General to report on its operations to

the Senate Commerce Committee on an annual basis. I would be happy to have follow-up

conversations with appropriate members and staff to discuss these specifics.

The benefits of the establishment of an Inspector General’s Office would include, but not

be limited to:

 Preserving the anonymity of athletes raising legitimate concerns about their NGBs

and the USOC; thereby providing protection for whistleblowers;

 Allowing for the investigation of other issues that arise outside the protections

afforded by the Sports Act;

 Assisting in proactively identifying issues within NGBs and the USOC, including

possible corrective actions;

 Contributing to more routine and proactive oversight of the USOC and the entire

Olympic and Paralympic system;

 Improving the athletes’ and the American public’s trust in USOC and NGB

governance;

 Reducing legal costs for all parties due to the reduction in necessary Section 10

hearings and their binding arbitrations when the Inspector General intervenes."

3

AAC Chair Han Xiao then went on to highlight additional reasons why this office would be wise

in other parts of his testimony.

2 Han Xiao, Chair of the Athletes’ Advisory Council, Written Testimony before the Senate Commerce, Science and

Transportation subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security, Strengthening

and Empowering U.S. Amateur Athletes: Moving Forward with Solutions, Available at:

https://insurancenewsnet.com/oarticle/senate-commerce-subcommittee-issues-testimony-from-athletes-advisorycouncil#.XEEq4lVKipo

3

Id., p. 5.

8. REVISE CURRENT AAA ARBITRATION PROCUDURES.

The AAA dispute resolution procedures called for in the original Amateur Sports Act of 1978

have been so eroded over the years that arbitration is no longer a reasonable recourse for athletes

for a prompt, economical and just resolution of athlete disputes.

 Athletes can no longer file in any Regional Office of the AAA;

 AAA filing fee has been vastly increased;

 Arbitrators are now placed by the AAA in its pool of arbitrators who have zero

experience, expertise and / or knowledge of the Sports Act and USOC Bylaws; and

 Arbitrators are now permitted to charge their regular hourly or daily rates, as opposed

to receiving a modest honorarium for the honor and privilege of donating their

services to a good cause.

Accordingly, arbitration costs are far beyond the means of the vast majority of American

athletes. Repeated pleas to the USOC and to the AAA by outside lawyers, including us, to

remove these barriers have gone unheeded.

Recommendations: The USOC must engage the AAA to roll back to the original agreement

between the USOC and AAA whereby the AAA would provide its dispute resolution services in

exchange for the AAA having the privilege to make known for its own advertising purposes its

close association with the USOC.

 A modest filing fee for athletes;

 Arbitrators who are knowledgeable of the provisions of the Sports Act, the USOC

bylaws and policies, who have had direct professional experience in working with the

same,

 Arbitrators who can be trusted to apply the rules and law on an impartial basis; and

 Arbitrators who would be willing to serve as arbitrators, not for their normal hourly

or daily fees, but rather for a modest honorarium for the honor and privilege of

donating their services to a good cause.

The current AAA process no longer serves America’s athletes. If these costs and expertise

issues cannot be resolved with the AAA, another dispute resolution mechanism must be created.

9. CONSIDER ADDITIONAL BYLAW AMENDMENTS.

Separately, and as discussed at the meeting between representatives of the Integrity

Committee and CEO Sarah Hirshland on January 16, 2019, the Integrity Committee will provide

a number of proposed amendments to the USOC Bylaw for consideration, including proposed

amendments which would, if adopted, improve the dispute resolution process and require

enhanced financial and operational transparency by NGBs and the USOC.

Among the changes is the current Bylaw which provides that only a UOSC Board member is

permitted to even submit a proposed amendment to the USOC Bylaws.

Recommendation: The USOC Board of Directors should consider Bylaw amendments

proposed by the Committee to Restore Integrity to the USOC.

10. THE USOC MUST CUT TIES WITH ANTI-ATHLETE LAW FIRMS,

INCLUDING THOSE THAT PARTICIPATED IN THE NASSAR COVER UP.

The USOC hires law firms that have been consistently "Anti-Athlete;" firms that represent

USOC-financed NGBs on a regular basis. These law firms have been paid hundreds of thousands

of dollars, if not millions, to oppose athlete complaints and sexual abuse cases. As we discussed

in our meeting with Sarah Hirshland, at best, these lawyers prolong and unnecessarily complicate

fairly standard conflicts between athletes and their NGB. They charge millions of dollars to

delay and obfuscate the conflict.

The law firms are economically incentivized to be anti-athlete, particularly in Section 9 and

Section 10 complaints. Their clients – the NGBs and USOC – do not pay for the athlete’s

attorney fees, they do not have to take their loss into account when coming up with remedies.

These law firms therefore intentionally delay and extend procedures to deplete and exhaust

athletes’ means, and patience. This tactic regularly results in athletes dropping out of the matter,

and many times, also of the sport. America has lost many talented athletes because of NGBs’ and

USOC’s legal representation strategies. In our meetings with Sarah Hirshland, we discussed how

that in every other civil rights context, that the defendant pays if the victim "substantially

prevails on the merits" and how fee-shifting can keep defense lawyers in check with resolving

meritorious complaints quickly and reasonably.

The USOC sponsors Seminars that teach lawyers how to defeat an athlete’s Section 9 and

Section 10 complaints. The seminar programming is one-way; the USOC does not invite the

lawyers who regularly represent athletes Section 9 and Section 10 complaints. Moreover, athletes

on the AAC believe the cost of putting on these seminars is charged as part of the "80% of

funding goes to support athletes."

Even worse, among the firms that the USOC invited to attend its most recent legal seminar in

November 1-2, 2018, were lawyers from a law firm which was known by the USOC to have

participated in the Nassar cover-up in July 2015.

Recommendations: In a new "Athletes First" USOC, the USOC must evaluate its legal

posture towards athletes; the USOC must not associate with law firms that have an anti-athlete

bias. The USOC must not retain or seek legal advice from law firms that are known to regularly

represent NGSs in opposition to athlete Section 9 and 10 Complaints.

The USOC must cease sponsoring legal seminars that are not consistent with the USOC’s

"Athletes First" mission.

The Integrity Committee will assist the CEO in identifying the applicable law firms.

Remove from the USOC website the names of lawyers and law firms listed as available to

assist athletes in dispute resolution that are known to oppose athletes in Section 9 and 10

proceedings.

The USOC should pay for athletes’ attorney’s fees if the athlete "substantially prevails on the

merits" – the legal standard for every other type of civil right.

11. THE USOC’S CURRENT STAFFING SIZE AND COMPENSATION LEVELS

MUST BE CONSISTENT WITH OTHER NON-PROFITS.

The number of USOC staff and their pay scales are bloated and inconsistent with the

Olympic movement, non-profits, and especially as compared to the amounts paid to athletes.

Most of America’s most elite athletes are paid less than a janitor working for the USOC. While

all Olympic athletes not competing for the NCAA have been professional athletes since at least

1992, the USOC budgeting process did not significantly change to take into account the

abandonment of the "amateur" status.

Most non-profits staffing levels and compensation are constrained by the watchful eye of its

donors. But most of the USOC’s money does not come from private donations; it is from

television, licensing and sponsorships. So the normal brake on bloat and inflated salaries does

not apply to the USOC. Further justifying an Inspector General position; the new money that has

flowed into the USOC has gone to staff’s pockets, rather than to athlete’s, as set forth on the

USOC’s 990s.

The Olympics and the values they represent are some of the most prestigious world-wide;

working for the USOC should be regarded as a privilege and honor, much the same way that

working as the Secretary of a government Agency, as a Congressional staffer or as an Assistant

United States Attorney. Team Integrity members work pro bono to assure that an abusive culture

does not derail the ideals associated with the five-rings. Most athletes believe the sacrifices they

make are worth it, in part, to be associated with these values. Non-profits and governmental

entities, coupled with institutions of enormous stature, are typically not where people go to work

to get rich.

Recommendation: The CEO must take a hard look at staffing levels as well as levels of

compensation, especially at the senior staff level. The USOC, as a non-profit, cannot, and should

not, be expected to compensate its employees at the levels in the private for-profit corporate

sector. Moreover, any pay should be benchmarked against what the USOC is paying its athletes,

who are also professionals.

12. THE CEO MUST CONSIDER PERSONNEL CHANGES.

Representatives of the Committee to Restore Integrity to the USOC met and spoke privately

with CEO Sarah Hirshland at its January 16th meeting in New York City to discuss the

immediate need to address staff members who have a demonstrable history of acting inconsistent

with any "Athletes’ First" cultural change. The CEO owes it to athletes to promptly dismiss

those who participated and reinforced Blackmun’s USOC failed culture. Others who are

unwilling to demonstrate a firm commitment to an "Athletes’ First" culture should also be

dismissed. Any reluctance to take such actions on account of a possible short-term loss to the

USOC of the institutional knowledge and expertise of these individuals does not, and will not,

outweigh the continuing harm that will result to athletes and the USOC from their continued

employment by the USOC. These athlete-antagonists on USOC/ NGB staff are well known to

Team Integrity and, to some extent, are also identified in the Ropes & Gray Report. Simply put,

there can be no USOC cultural turnaround with the continued employment of these individuals

by the USOC, or a CEO who fails to act in such circumstances.

Thank you again for meeting with us and considering these ideas and proposals as a followup to that meeting. As discussed, we look forward to your response to each one either positively,

negatively, or take the position that the USOC would remain neutral on that issue. Again, we

sincerely hope that you will respond positively, and that in addition, you will take the

opportunity to give us your vision of the new Olympic movement.

Respectfully submitted,

The COMMITTEE TO RESTORE INTEGRITY TO THE USOC

Edward G. Williams and Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Co-Chairs

egwilliams@somlaw.com hogshead@championwomen.org

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