Updates focus on athlete representation, athlete safety and National Governing Body oversight

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee today announced the most sweeping governance reforms in nearly two decades, underscoring a commitment to athlete representation, athlete safety and governance best practices. The reforms are intended to be only the first of a series of such fundamental governance improvements to be finalized and rolled out in coming months. They reflect consensus recommendations stemming from an independent report on organizational failings that contributed to an environment in which Larry Nassar preyed on victims and survivors, from two critically important Congressional investigations and from an independent report from the Borders Commission.

The bylaw amendments approved by the USOPC board of directors were first posted for a mandatory 60-day public comment period in August 2019. A Governance Reform Working Group that included athlete and National Governing Body representatives, as well as other leading USOPC constituents then reviewed those comments and provided its own comments. Finally, the full USOPC board approved this first set of bylaw amendments, addressing dozens of reforms contemplated by the independent and Congressional investigations and reports.

The changes are just the latest in a series of reforms initiated by the USOPC Chair Susanne Lyons, who took the helm on Jan. 1, 2019, and USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland, who joined the organization in August 2018. 

“We promised changes to our structure and our practices that are revolutionary and substantive, recognizing the importance of the athlete role in organizational decision-making, robust compliance and certification protocols, and reflective of the population that makes up the Olympic and Paralympic community in the United States – and today we’ve delivered an important step toward that promise,” said Lyons. “These outcomes are the result of hard work, cooperation and a sincere belief that the USOPC – through clear definition of its purpose and modernized, robust governance – can continue to be an incredible force for good in the lives of American athletes, and a source of great national pride.” 

The USOPC board of directors unanimously approved the changes in a special meeting held Thursday, Nov. 7. The updated bylaws will be published in a form to indicate the approved changes on TeamUSA.org and will be effective Jan. 1, 2020. 

“These reforms are a significant first step of many in our ongoing efforts to ensure our athletes are at the heart of what we do and who we are going forward,” said Hirshland. “We have taken action and will continue to take action with members of the Olympic and Paralympic community to affirmatively place athlete well-being and strong, smart governance on an equal footing with sustained competitive excellence. That unified commitment gives me great confidence that these measures will be embraced and improved upon in the weeks, months and years ahead.”

The list of governance reforms includes:

USOPC Board Composition 

  • Increase of athlete representation from three to five members, reaching the recommended threshold of 33 percent
  • Direct election/reelection of athlete and NGB representatives to the board from the Athletes’ Advisory Council, NGB Council and U.S. Olympians & Paralympians Association
  • Addition of U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Foundation chair as ex officio, nonvoting
  • Addition of International Paralympic Committee Governing Board members as ex officio

USOPC Compliance and Oversight

  • Clarification that the duty of the USOPC is to certify versus recognize NGBs, and hold NGBs accountable to specific compliance standards including:
    • Governance and compliance requirements
    • Athlete safety policies and procedures that comply with all applicable laws and safe sport policies
    • Financial standards and reporting, to include transparency and accuracy of posted financial records
    • Sport performance requirements that include an approved strategic plan, selection procedures and process, and athlete/team recommendations
    • Operational performance that demonstrates specific capability, maintenance of policies, ability to generate revenue, manage grievance procedures, adopt and uphold a whistleblower policy and cooperate with trademark policies of the USOPC
  • Paralympic Sport Organizations will be certified in the same manner as NGBs

Additionally, the reforms define specific updates, rights, and obligations of the AAC, USOPA, and NGBC as well as the role of office of Athlete Ombuds. To view the reforms, visit TeamUSA.org

About the USOPC
Founded in 1894 and headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee serves as both the National Olympic Committee and National Paralympic Committee for the United States. The USOPC is focused on protecting, supporting and empowering America’s athletes, and is responsible for fielding U.S. teams for the Olympic, Paralympic, Youth Olympic, Pan American and Parapan American Games, and serving as the steward of the Olympic and Paralympic movements in the U.S. For more information, visit TeamUSA.org.