Athlete Ombuds


The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and its member organizations are obligated to provide for swift resolution of conflicts and concerns involving athletes, including their opportunity to participate in protected competition. There are processes within each member organization, as well as within the USOPC, to accomplish this mandate. In addition to this webpage, Team USA Athletes can learn more about their Rights and Responsibilities in some of these processes on the Athlete Rights and Responsibilities Webpage

The Athlete Ombuds is available to provide independent, confidential advice to Team USA Athletes with respect to resolving concerns and disputes and to assist in such resolution through facilitated communication and mediation. In circumstances where more formal grievance processes are necessary, the Athlete Ombuds can advise athletes in how to navigate these processes (as a victim, complainant, respondent or other impacted individual) and assist in identifying legal counsel if needed. 

One of the first steps is to understand which organization(s) have jurisdiction of the matter and which rules and policies may apply. For athletes in the Olympic and Paralympic Movement, your NGB or the USOPC often have jurisdiction of a matter. As a general overview, matters within USOPC and/or NGB jurisdiction include: 

  • Team selection / the right to participate in protected competition
  • Athlete agreements, benefits and services, and commercial issues
  • Disciplinary issues (such as code of conduct, discrimination, retaliation issues)
  • Athlete voice in decision-making, NGB governance and compliance
  • Eligibility issues (such citizenship, membership, national classification)
  • Athlete safety
  • Conflicts of interest

If your NGB or the USOPC do not have jurisdiction of the matter, it may be governed by an external organization. The most common external matters include:

  • Anti-doping
  • U.S. Center for SafeSport
  • International Classification
  • Delegation Event Specific Rules 

Please see the below sections for more information on how to navigate your issue.

Navigating Matters within USOPC or NGB Jurisdiction

Where do I start?

  1. The best place to start generally is direct communication with your NGB in order to ask questions, share your concerns and clear up any misunderstandings. You may also choose to involve your Athletes’ Advisory Council (AAC) representative.

  2. At any stage in the process, athletes may contact the Athlete Ombuds to seek independent, confidential advice or for assistance in informal resolution.

  3. Each NGB provides avenues for athletes to file a formal complaint and access an internal dispute resolution process – these processes and procedures are typically found within the NGB’s bylaws located on the NGB’s website.

  4. The USOPC provides for additional and specific avenues of redress where an athlete believes their opportunity to participate in protected competition has been denied (Section 9), or where a member seeks to compel an NGB to comply with the USOPC bylaws or the Ted Stevens Act (Section 10). See below for additional information related to these processes.

Disputes that may be filed with the USOPC

In addition to informal resolution and complaint procedures with your NGB, the USOPC provides for specific avenues of redress where an athlete believes their opportunity to participate in protected competition (as defined in the USOPC bylaws) has been denied, or where a member seeks to compel an NGB to comply with the USOPC bylaws or the Ted Stevens Act.

The USOPC Dispute Resolution Unit's Webpage also provides additional information about USOPC Grievance processes.

Under Section 9 of the USOPC bylaws, no member organization of the USOPC may deny or threaten to deny an athlete the opportunity to participate in the Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American, Parapan American Games, or other protected competition, as defined within the USOPC bylaws.  

An athlete who believes that they have been denied this right may file a complaint with the NGB and proceed through their internal grievance process. The athlete may also file a Section 9 complaint with the USOPC, whether or not they have exhausted internal NGB remedies.

The Section 9 complaint provides notice of the allegation to the NGB and the USOPC, at which point the Athlete Ombuds and/or USOPC staff may try to assist in mediating the dispute. At any point following the filing of a Section 9 complaint, the athlete may file for arbitration with the American Arbitration Association for a final and binding decision. Where the alleged denial impacts an imminent protected competition, the athlete may request for an expedited arbitration from the AAA.

Visual of a flowchart – step 1: complaint with NGB (optional) can lead to step 2: section nine complaint with USOPC which can lead to step 3: arbitration demand with AAA

There are several differences in choosing between an NGB process and the USOPC/AAA process:

  • In the case of an NGB complaint, there is generally a lower filing fee, a hearing panel with an athlete representative(s), a less formal process and the ability to appeal the decision (to the AAA). Check the NGB Bylaws for specifics, including filing fees and deadline.
  • There is no filing fee to file a Section 9 complaint with the USOPC, but it must be filed within 180 days of the alleged denial. If an athlete subsequently files a demand for arbitration with the AAA, there is a $1725 in filing / administrative fees plus half of the arbitrator’s fees so, generally, an athlete would initiate the process with approximately $2750 and be required to pay for their own attorney’s fees. Arbitrator fees may vary depending on the case, and there is a hardship waiver athletes can ask about. AAA cases are heard by a neutral AAA arbitrator, generally includes a more formal process with attorneys, and result in a final and binding decision. For past decisions and precedent, please visit the Section 9 archives here.


Under Section 10 of the USOPC bylaws, any person who belongs to an NGB or HPMO may seek to compel such NGB or HPMO to comply with the requirements of the USOPC Bylaws and the Ted Stevens Act.

An individual who believes that their NGB or HPMO is out of compliance with the mandates set forth in the USOPC bylaws or the Ted Stevens Act must first file a formal complaint within the grievance procedures of the NGB. After all internal remedies have been exhausted, the individual may file a Section 10 complaint with the USOPC.

The parties may at any point of this process request mediation. As part of the Section 10 Complaint process, the USOPC appoints a hearing panel that will recommend to the USOPC board if the NGB (i) is in compliance, (ii) is not in compliance and NGB status should be revoked, (iii) should be on probation, or (iv) should face remedial actions to rectify any non-compliance.

Following a final decision, either party may file for a final and binding decision with the American Arbitration Association. For past decisions and precedent please visit the Section 10 archives here.

Visual of a flowchart – step 1: complaint with NGB (required) can lead to step 2: section ten complaint with USOPC which can lead to step 3: arbitration demand with AAA

External Matters

For matters outside the USOPC/NGB jurisdiction, which may be handled by various organizations, such as an International Federation, U.S. Anti-doping Agency or the U.S. Center for SafeSport, Team USA Athletes may contact the Athlete Ombuds for assistance understanding rights, resources, processes and options. Additionally, the Athlete Ombuds has an Athlete Safety & Well-Being Webpage, an Anti-Doping Webpage and a Games & Competition Info Webpage for more information on these types of matters.

Disclaimer: Please note that advice from any member of the Office of the Athlete Ombuds, including but not limited to information provided on this website, does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The Athlete Ombuds will offer neutral, independent advice to any athlete, and athletes should always seek legal counsel if they want specific legal advice or individual representation. See our homepage for our full disclaimer.