Athlete Ombuds

Athlete Legal Aid Program

The purpose of the Athlete Legal Aid Program is to assist elite athletes without sufficient financial means to seek aid for fees and costs associated with legal representation or the proceeding itself with respect to claims before an anti-doping organization, National Governing Body, International Federation, the U.S. Center for SafeSport, United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee, IOC/IPC, Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), or other sport-related tribunal within the Olympic and Paralympic Movement.

Legal aid is available to elite athletes who, within the last 12 months have represented the U.S. in a Team USA Delegation Event (Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American, or Parapan American Games) or a world championships; are currently on a national team as defined by their NGB; or are part of a Team USA Delegation Event and a sport-related issue arises during the period of the Games.

Where world championships or national teams apply, an eligible athlete must have represented the U.S. in a discipline on the upcoming Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American, or Parapan American Games program. In a year or sport where world championships are not applicable, an eligible athlete must have, within the last 12 months, represented the U.S. in the most elite protected international competition as defined by their NGB. 

Eligibility for this program is not available to athletes competing in events that categorize entrants in age-restricted classifications such as “Juniors,” “Masters,” “Seniors,” “Veterans” or other similarly designated age-restricted competitions.  

 
An athlete may apply for legal aid upon filing a claim/grievance, or at the point at which a claim has been filed against them. Aid may apply to initial and/or appeal proceedings before any above-listed hearing tribunal.
 
If the applicable hearing tribunal (e.g., the U.S. Center for SafeSport or CAS) offers its own hardship assistance, the applicant must first apply through those channels and include documentation of such application to request aid through this program.   
 
Legal aid will not apply to civil or criminal court proceedings. Also, if an athlete chooses pro se representation, legal aid will not apply for attorney’s fees.
 

Legal aid of up to $10,000, dependent on an athlete’s financial need, may be awarded in the following ways:

  1. Costs and Fees: The applicant may be released from, or provided aid for, the costs of the hearing procedure (i.e., filing fees, arbitrator costs, etc.).
  2. Attorney’s Fees: Aid may be granted towards the fees of the applicant’s attorney of choice.
  3. Pro Bono Counsel: The applicant may be provided with pro bono counsel.

Legal aid may be granted to eligible elite athletes demonstrating that their income is insufficient to cover the fees and costs associated with legal representation or the proceeding itself without drawing on assets necessary to support oneself or family. Athletes applying for legal aid will be required to complete the legal aid program application and provide their most recently filed federal tax return. 

When part of a Team USA Delegation, and a sport-related issue arises during the period of the Games, there will be an expedited application process and the requirement to submit financial documentation may be waived. 

 
To the extent possible, the Office of the Athlete Ombuds will work directly with the athlete’s attorney or applicable hearing tribunal for payment of fees and costs. With respect to attorney’s fees, payment is conditional upon receipt of the complaint filed by (or against) the athlete, and receipt of an invoice from the attorney with a clear breakdown of hours, rates and fees associated with representation. If the attorney’s fees are less than the amount of legal aid awarded, the attorney will only be compensated for the fees reasonably associated with direct representation of the athlete and as indicated on the invoice. 

The Office of the Athlete Ombuds may withdraw legal aid and/or request reimbursement if it finds that the beneficiary was not truthful through the application process or in their claim or defense; if the hearing tribunal indicated that the claim/defense was frivolous or vexatious; if the claim was either withdrawn or dismissed prior to the athlete incurring fees or costs; or if the party was released from costs.

Athlete Application

The legal aid program application can be accessed here. An applicant must include the following as part of their application:

  1. Applicant’s Information: Contact and sport information.
  2. Specific Request for Aid: The applicant must outline, with as much specificity as possible, their request for aid, which may include costs and fees or attorney’s fees.
  3. Supporting Documentation to Establish Financial Need: The applicant must supply their most recently filed federal tax return with personal information such as social security numbers removed.

Click here to access a list of attorneys that have asserted they have experience representing athletes in sport related matters within the Olympic and Paralympic Movement.

If you have questions, you may contact the Office of the Athlete Ombuds at ombudsman@usathlete.org or 719-866-5000.

** The process for granting legal aid is confidential and the Office of the Athlete Ombuds will not disclose any part of the application or supporting documentation to third parties without permission of the applicant. The Office of the Athlete Ombuds may, however, inform other parties involved in a proceeding and the hearing panel/arbitrator simply that legal aid has been granted, particularly where attorney’s fees or costs are requested as part of the proceeding.

Kyle Mack competes at  PyeongChang 2018, grabbing his board as he flies through the air.

CONTACT US  

The Office of the Athlete Ombuds provides cost-free, independent and confidential advice and dispute resolution services. 

 

REPORT AN ATHLETE SAFETY CONCERN

File a concern with the U.S. Center for SafeSport to help keep sports safe for all.

 

REPORT A DOPING CONCERN

Report a concern to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to help keep sports clean.

 

MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES

The Office of the Athlete Ombuds can help confidentially refer athletes to the help they need.

 

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.