Information about Athlete Agreements

The Athlete Ombudsman is available to offer athletes confidential advice regarding participation in elite sport and to help resolve disputes that might arise regarding any applicable NGB, USOPC, IF, IOC/IPC rules, regulations, policies or privileges. Our role is to help you understand the rules and your rights. Common topics we discuss with athletes surrounds rights and obligations of signing particular agreements, including:

  • NGB Athlete Agreements - Overview
  • Code of Conduct
  • Media Release
  • Release of Liability
  • Commercial Terms Agreements
  • USOPC Games Forms
  • IOC/IPC Eligibility Forms

The Athlete Ombudsman has created the following chart to outline recommendations of general principals an NGB could include in a particular athlete agreement. However, athletes should consult their own counsel prior to entering into an agreement.

NGBs can require athletes to abide by a National Team/Event Agreement, Terms of Participation, a General Media Release, and a Code of Conduct. An NGB cannot condition an athlete's participation in a competition by signing a Commercial Agreement. 

Different types and formats of athlete agreements can be utilized, since there is not one model fits all NGBs. As every NGB has a different structure, NGBs do not need to include provisions that do not apply to their organization. NGBs may also find that alternate or additional provisions need to be included. 

Below, we have included a brief overview of the USOPC policies, but athletes should consult the full documents for more information.

USOPC Policy Regarding NGB Athlete Agreements

The USOPC recognizes the right of NGBs to require certain agreements on the part of athletes as a condition of participation in membership, events, teams, or programs of the NGB. These agreements may include terms that help the NGB comply with International Olympic Committee (“IOC”), International Paralympic Committee (“IPC”), Pan American Sports Organization (“PASO”), International Federation (“IF”), and USOPC requirements, field successful and competitive teams, and promote and generate support for the NGB itself (including via the use of athlete names, images, and likenesses other than for Commercial Use.). The USOPC also recognizes the right of each NGB to control the use of its name, marks, and other indicia.

 At the same time, the USOPC recognizes the right of each athlete to be treated fairly and consistently and to clearly understand what is required of him/her in order to participate, as well as the right of each athlete to control the commercial use of his/her name, image, and likeness. 

 The USOPC policy regarding NGB Athlete Agreements sets out basic parameters for certain agreements that an NGB should explicitly require of its athletes as a condition of participation, and optional commercial agreements that must remain voluntary, in a way that balances the rights and needs of both NGBs and athletes.

Specialized Equipment (Personal Performance Gear)

Pursuant to the Olympic Charter, the National Olympic Committee, in this case the USOPC, has the “sole and exclusive authority to prescribe and determine the clothing and uniforms to be worn, and the equipment to be used” during the Olympic Games, including during competition and during ceremonies. The Pan American Sports Organization (PASO) Statute has an identical rule for the Pan American Games. However, this authority does not extend to specialized equipment used by athletes in competition.

The Olympic Charter and PASO Statute define specialized equipment as having a material effect on the performance of athletes, due to the specialized characteristics of the equipment. An athlete has the right to select his or her specialized equipment for use at the Olympic Games, Pan American Games, and other protected competitions as defined in Section 1.3(w) of the USOPC Bylaws. Although the IPC does not have a comparable the rule, the USOPC has extended this right to Paralympic athletes. For each sport included on the Olympic, Pan American. Paralympic, or Parapan American Games program, the USOPC, after input from the NGB and respective AAC rep, has designated a list of specialized equipment for winter and summer sports. You can find the Personal Performance Gear lists here