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The Borders Commission, An Independent Panel Chartered By The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, Releases One-Year Progress Report

By U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee | Aug. 18, 2020, 11 a.m. (ET)

Team USA celebrates winning the gold medal in women's basketball at the Olympic Games Athens 2004 on Aug. 28, 2004 in Athens.

 

Atlanta, August 18, 2020 – The Borders Commission, an Independent Panel Chartered by the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, has released a One-Year Progress Report as a comprehensive follow up to its July 2019 recommendations. 

In September 2018, the USOPC chartered the Borders Commission, an independent panel, to review the organization’s governance strategy and athlete protection policies – including examining whether changes are needed to the organization’s policies and procedures, its bylaws, and the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act. Chaired by Lisa Borders, former CEO of Time’s Up and former President of the WNBA, the Commission is assisted by an independent counsel and comprised of nine members, including four athlete representatives, two National Governing Body representatives, two independents members, and one USOPC board member.

"In 2018, new USOPC leadership felt it was essential that an independent and athlete-oriented Commission be created to investigate the underlying issues within our community related to culture, policies and processes. We were fortunate to have Lisa Borders lead this effort, and the Commission produced an important and thoughtful roadmap for reform,” said USOPC Chair Susanne Lyons. “Over the past year, the USOPC embraced the mandate for change and, to the best of our abilities in difficult times, began to take substantive actions to better support and engage with athletes, while improving the effectiveness of the organizations that also serve them. We know there is more work to do, and we know that culture is not changed in a few short months. Our objective is to create a culture where athletes can train and compete in a safe environment that supports health and well-being in addition to athletic performance.” 

The Borders Commission’s nine-month review process culminated in five top-line recommendations:

  • Prioritize Athletes: The USOPC must make improvements, both structural and operational, to ensure that the USOPC becomes and remains an athlete-centric organization committed to the protection, service, and advancement of athletes.
  • Support and Oversee NGBs: The USOPC should develop and provide additional support for NGBs, including shared services and dedicated pipeline funding, while rejecting the past “money for medals” focus. Specifically, the USOPC must (i) certify NGBs, (ii) ensure ongoing compliance with comprehensive USOPC certification requirements, (iii) oversee corrective steps by NGBs to correct non-compliance issues, (iv) provide penalties for non-compliance, and (v) serve as the NGB for a given sport where its previous NGB has been decertified.
  • Increase Organizational Accountability: The USOPC must set a new standard of professionalism in sports organizations, ensuring accountability, compliance and sustained enterprise performance to support athletes and the Olympic and Paralympic movements in the United States.
  • Transform Organizational Behavior: The USOPC must redesign its culture and staff to prioritize the protection of, service to and advancement of athletes to ensure a best-in-class organization poised to leverage the competitive advantage of diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Enable Congressional Oversight: The USOPC must be more transparent in sharing its achievements as well as its ongoing challenges, building trust and creating support from the athletes and the American public-at-large for the Olympic and Paralympic movements in the United States. The Ted Stevens Act must be amended to give the USOPC explicit power, in addition to the current implicit powers, to better protect athletes and to make changes needed to implement the full set of recommendations outlined in the report.

In addition to the five top-line recommendations, the Borders Commission outlined a series of implementation steps and sub-criteria on how to achieve each recommendation. The One-Year Progress Report details an analysis of the USOPC’s efforts to date in following the original recommendations and its implementation steps. 

“I am heartened by the response of the USOPC after a crisis, requesting outside review of its operating model and embracing the candid advice given after the review was done. It is noteworthy that all the top-line recommendations were accepted and that the initial efforts to deliver the implementation steps have been made. There is an inherent understanding between the Borders Commission and the USOPC that the work we are doing here serves a singular purpose: protecting and empowering Athletes,” said Chair Borders. 

Borders went on to say, “The 2019 report recommended an organizational mind shift from ‘money for medals’ to ‘people and performance.’ The overarching theme was placing the athletes at the center of every decision, making its mission athlete-centric.” 

Following the Commission’s recommendations, the USOPC bylaws have been changed to allow direct election of athletes and for them to hold 33% of the seats on the board of directors. NGBs will now be required to have athlete councils. The USOPC has also signed an agreement with the Athletes’ Advisory Council to provide it with funding for an executive director and other operational areas, enabling the AAC to function as an indispensable “athletes’ voice” for cultural competency and a higher functioning organization. 

Additionally, the USOPC hired a chief ethics and compliance officer and created a compliance committee to oversee accountability and performance by NGBs. Although this is a critical development, the Commission still has identified specific areas with respect to USOPC compliance and CECO reporting that must be improved to fulfill the recommendations. 

Also included in the One-Year Progress Report are significant improvements in gender representation. 

The Commission also recognizes that in order to fulfill the shared mission of protecting and empowering athletes, a series of outstanding diversity goals still need to be met regarding race, ethnicity and life experience.

Borders also pointed out, “The insights in the Final Report required a new operating model, active collaboration and radical transparency with all constituent groups. Our strategic advice was not a blanket guide for athlete-centric protocols, but rather a detailed roadmap for an essential transition. What we are seeing now is a willingness to create a more inclusive environment in the USOPC’s decision-making process. After reviewing the achievements and advancements from the last year, there is still more work to be done – but the difference is, now everyone is at the table. It’s clear the USOPC listened, learned and has begun implementing significant steps, thereby, leading through a promising new paradigm.”

“The work of the Borders Commission has been instrumental in our efforts to both evaluate and improve the athlete experience in the Olympic and Paralympic movements, and ensure that the athlete desire to achieve competitive excellence is matched by an environment that is fully supportive of their well-being, on and off the field of play,” said USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland. “We have taken significant steps, and are committed to continuing this important work with help from the Commission, and many others who have offered valuable insights and expertise, to ensure our community reflects the excellence of the athletes we serve.”

About the Borders Commission
In September 2018, the USOPC chartered The Borders Commission as an independent panel to review the organization’s governance strategy and athlete protection policies – including examining whether changes are needed to the organization’s policies and procedures, its bylaws, and the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act.  Chaired by Lisa Borders, former CEO of Time’s Up and former President of the WNBA, the commission includes eight other members currently and formerly independent of the Olympic movement, current or former elite athletes, Olympians and Paralympians and NGB representatives. The Commission also retains an independent counsel. The primary objective of the body is to recommend appropriate and specific changes in the USOPC's role and engagement with athletes and its responsibilities and oversight over, and engagement with, NGBs.

Commission Members and Counsel:
Lisa Borders (chair); Independent; Former WNBA president
Han Xiao; Athlete; Chair, USOPC Athletes’ Advisory Council/elite athlete (Table Tennis)
Elana Meyers Taylor; athlete; Olympian (Bobsled)
Mike Schultz; athlete; Paralympian (Snowboard)
Michael Lenard; athlete; Olympian (Team Handball)/vice president of the International Court of Arbitration for Sport
Renee Chube Washington; NGB; COO, USA Track & Field
Ted Morris; NGB; executive director, US Speedskating
Lorraine Orr; Independent, Youth Organization; COO, Boys & Girls Clubs of America
Beth Brooke-Marciniak; Independent, USOPC board 
Davis Butler; Independent Counsel; Partner, Butler Mersereau LLP

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, Pan American and Parapan American Games, and serving as the steward of the Olympic and Paralympic movements in the U.S. A federally chartered nonprofit corporation, the USOPC does not receive federal financial support (other than for select Paralympic military veteran programs) and is one of only four NOCs in the world that also manages Paralympic activities.