Today: Last Update:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Team Integrity's Press Release regarding the proposed Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2019


    07/31/19

    July 31, 2019 Please contact:
    Ed Vasquez
    408-420-6558 or ed@ejvcommunications.com
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    (Washington, D.C.) The Committee to Restore Integrity to the USOPC’s aim is to prevent the possibility of another Scott Blackmun, a corrupt leader, and a Larry Nassar, someone who took advantage of the Olympic system to abuse athletes. There are many positive aspects of the Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2019, and Team Integrity is proud of our many proposals that are part of the legislation. The Act recognizes the USOPC’s dishonorable leadership, and we are heartened that the U.S. Center for SafeSport will be more fully funded. But the new legislation proposed by Senators Moran and Blumenthal does not represent the necessary reforms necessary for elite athletes, and does not prevent another Scott Blackmun or a Larry Nassar. What made Nassar so successful was Blackmun-enforced athlete-powerlessness, rather than a lack of staff and resouces to “protect” our athletes. This legislation doesn’t yet address two central problems that were thoroughly flushed out by the House Subcommittee Report, the USOPC-funded Ropes & Gray Report, or the USOPC-chartered Borders Commission: fear of retaliation and a lack of power balance between the elite athletes and the Corporation.

    Team Integrity does not oppose the Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2019; it will benefit the 16 million athletes in the Olympic Movement. But we believe it must be strengthened for elite athletes. We look forward to working with both offices to address these issues, and we are hopeful that the Senator Moran and Senator Blumenthal legislation can be combined with the legislation proposed by Senator Gardner and Congresswoman DeGette to more comprehensively remedy the problems at the Olympic and Paralympic movement.

    The USOPC has been wracked by repetitive scandals; the public knows of only the most egregious ones, those that were able to break through the presumption of silence. For years, athlete whistleblowers attempted to reform the system from within, and were ruthlessly punished for speaking the truth; that the governance of the Olympic movement was flawed, that sexually abused Olympians and Paralympians were intentionally ignored as a matter of official USOPC Board Policy. In ongoing efforts to change these Board positions, (it is still appalling that anyone would fight hard against protecting athletes from abuse) Olympians and Paralympians turned to the U.S. Congress to step in to fundamentally change the system in order to protect athletes and create an Olympic Committee governance that would make America proud.

    We are grateful that the proposed legislation recognizes just how corrupt that the USOPC and USAG were. But those same people are still in power, or were chosen by those who were in power at the height of the willful failure of money over morals. Olympians and Paralympians came up with sophisticated solutions to assist lawmakers in ensuring these problems never happen again. For example, they asked for an Inspector General to fairly adjudicate concerns in the Olympic system. They asked for an Athlete Advocate to serve as an independent professional advocate for athlete issues, on par with the CEO. They asked for attorney’s fees when an athlete challenges all types of abuse and wins in Sports Act-mandated arbitrations. They asked that the Athlete’s Advisory Committee, the AAC, be fully funded, with firewalls to prevent the corporation from luring athletes from tough athlete-centric positions with money and adulation. And they asked for fundamental governance changes that would improve transparency and give athletes a true seat at the table. Sarah Hirshland, current CEO of the USOPC for almost a year, has twice publicly stated that she does not have a solution for the problem of retaliation. Furthermore, disabled athletes who compete in the Paralympics were completely left out of this legislation, except for a name-change.

    Lastly, we fear if this legislation passes as written, it will embolden the corporation against everyone who has spoken out against the current system. Groups like ours, Team Integrity, and so many athlete whistleblowers who have bravely stood up for reform through the years will certainly be at risk.

    Without removing either the people or the power structures, this legislation would not have prevented the problems of the past, and as detailed below, does not solve current athlete-powerlessness problems. Therefore, the proposed Act should not be accepted as complete reform for the future. The Committee to Restore Integrity to the USOPC thanks Senator Moran and Senator Blumenthal for this strong bill to stand on moving forward, and we look forward to continue collaborating. We, the Olympians and Paralympians who gave up decades of our lives for the Movement, cannot afford to allow another 20 years of athlete abuse before enacting comprehensive reforms.

    Athlete Disempowerment During CEO Sarah Hirshland Tenure:
    • Problematic candidates Rich Bender and Steve Mesler were appointed to four-year terms on to the USOPC Board over AAC objections and without input from the AAC.

    • The USOPC formed a committee to gift some of the most lucrative marks, the Olympic rings, to colleges and universities, without athlete input. According to the current Sports Act, Athletes are supposed to constitute 20% of all committees and board positions.
    o Athletes are still not permitted to use the marks for their own fundraising.
    o It is unclear after this proposed legislation how this would be resolved.

    • The USOPC has taken the position that it does not need to provide athletes with the due process protections guaranteed by the Sports Act and USOC by-laws. Athletes at Olympic Training Centers face complaints, labeled as somehow related to “SafeSport”. The complaints are along the lines of an anonymous “I don’t feel safe around this athlete.” These “SafeSport complaints” are not fact specific, and do not allege that the athlete has put someone else in danger. Instead, the athlete may have said an NGB employee was incompetent. The NGB then conveys this “SafeSport Compliant” to the USOPC, and it summarily bans the athlete from using the OTC and from receiving funding. (See Team Integrity “USOC New Due Process Challenges”)

    • Athlete health insurance is discontinued when athletes need it most: when they become sick, injured or become pregnant, and their rankings drop.
    o Otherwise, the USOPC is insuring some of the youngest, healthiest people in the insurance pool; it could scarcely be cheaper.

    • The USOPC required USA Women’s National Team in Soccer to sue their NGB when they face sex discrimination. Instead of the USOPC protecting the athlete, the USOPC funds the NGBs, including their legal costs against athletes. See also, women’s hockey, cycling and rugby.

    • Budget: Money allocation reflects values. As Will Hobson reported years ago, the 5-rings have made executives rich, while keeping athletes poor. Nothing has changed. https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/olympics/olympic-executives-cash-in-on-a-movement-that-keeps-athletes-poor/2016/07/30/ed18c206-5346-11e6-88eb-7dda4e2f2aec_story.html?utm_term=.e924e3851d57
    o Blackmun spoke at an AAC meeting after the 2016 Olympics and the athletes were challenging the staff bonuses that were bigger for the executives than for athletes winning the gold medal. He said, quote, “who do you think wins the medals?” Really.
    o Lisa Baird, head of marketing, recently left with a $300K severance, and $400K bonus.
    o Patrick Sandusky, head of communications, left with a $500K severance.
    o Blackmun’s pay in 2018 – for working 2 months was $3M.
    o Suzanne Lyons was paid $100,000/ month as interim CEO of the USOC. Yet Lyon’s expected compensation as a Senior VP at Visa would be between $174K - $285K per year.
    o While the USOPC board said Scott Blackmun was resigning for health reasons at the time, now they’re saying it was because the USOPC needed “new leadership.”
     We cannot find a single quote from February/ March/ April 2018 that was anything other than praising his leadership, and citing his health as the reason for leaving.
    o The USOC will pay a national coach $250K and the athletes 0, but on the 990 or the budget it will say that the USOC spent $250K for “athlete support”. Thereby, the USOC can CLAIM must of the $317M budget is going to “support” athletes – but it is actually more money going into coaches/ executives pockets.
    o It is unclear after this proposed legislation how this would be resolved.

    • Team Integrity had direct conversations and written communications with Sarah Hirshland about conflicts of interest when the USOPC hires AAC members in January 2019. Yet Hirshland then went on to hire an AAC member, who just happened to sit on the Hirshland-CEO hiring committee just months prior. (See Attached “Team Integrity Athlete First Recommendations”)
    o It is unclear after this proposed legislation how this would be resolved.

    • USA Track and Field failed to adhere to its own selection procedures for the Pan American Games, resulting in 39 athletes who were completely innocent who were left off the national team. One athlete spent $21,000, who did nothing wrong.
    o Worse, at a Section 9 AAA arbitration, USATF did not adhere to the requirement that all AAA arbitrations must include all affected parties. Athletes and their families spent thousands of dollars to resolve this incompetence… again. The USOPC has not stepped in to help athletes.

    • USA Table Tennis adopted selection procedures that included the results of competitions that had already occurred. (impermissible retro-active qualifications) Additionally, the selection procedures gave undue discretion to the coach, rather than objective criteria, making athletes more vulnerable to abuse. The USOPC has not stepped in to help athletes, and it is unclear how the Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2019 would remedy this ongoing problem.

    Members of Team Integrity include:


    Executive Committee:
    Ed Williams, J.D., Oly
    Nancy Hogshead-Makar, J.D., Oly
    Robert Allard, J.D.
    Robert Andrews, MA, LMFT
    Jessica Armstrong, J.D.
    Eli Bremer, Oly
    Chuck Foster, Former USOC Officer
    Herman R. Frazier, Oly, Former USOC Officer
    Kathy Johnson Clarke, Oly
    Lucila Hemmingsen, J.D.
    Micki King, Oly
    Jon Little, J.D.
    Donna Lopiano, Ph.D.
    Charles Milam, former USOC Board Member
    Dia Rianda
    Eva Rodansky
    Pat Rodowsky
    Steven Sexton, Ph.D.
    Jennifer Spiegel, J.D.


    Olympians, Paralympians, Coaches and Elite Athletes:
    Mary Harvey, Oly
    Greg Louganis, Oly
    Scott Johnson, Oly
    Julianne McNamara, Oly
    Ariana Kukors Smith, Oly
    Martina Navratilova, Oly
    Horace Holden, Oly
    Pam Shriver, Oly
    Tai Babilonia, Oly
    Tracee Talavera, Oly
    Bill Stapleton, Oly
    Nancy Lieberman, Oly
    Dave Berkoff, Oly
    Caroline Lind, Oly
    Cynthia Potter, Oly
    Taraje Williams-Murray, Oly
    Don Barcome, Jr., Oly
    Larry Hough, Oly, former AAC and USOC Officer
    Mitzi Kramer Tighe, Oly
    Marci Frederick, Oly
    Scott Donie, Oly
    Cristina Teuscher Fabbri, Oly
    Ian Whatley, Oly
    Keith Sanderson, Oly
    Seth Kelsey, Oly
    Bonny Warner Simi, Oly
    Sebastian DeFrancesco, Oly
    Joe Jacobi, Oly
    Sean O’Neill, Oly
    Eric Barnes, Oly
    Barb Weinstein McGrath, Oly
    Debby McCormick, Oly
    Nick Peterson, Oly
    Jennifer Hooker Brinegaar, Oly
    Allen James, Oly
    Brenda Borgh Bartlett, Oly
    Janis Hape Dowd, Oly
    Deb Armstrong, Oly
    Anthony Zahn, Oly
    Andrew Hermann, Oly
    Carrie Sheinberg, Oly
    Sue Heon-Preston, Oly
    Allison Wagner, Oly
    Linda Jezek Wittwer, Oly
    Inga Thompson, Oly
    Tiffany Cohen, Oly
    Joan Hansen, Oly
    Tracy Evans-Land, Oly
    Cathy (Catherine) Hearn, Oly
    Betsy Mitchell, Oly
    Doug Lewis, Oly
    Carrie Steinseifer Bates, Oly
    Steve Gregg, Oly
    Jack Elder, Oly
    Deena Deardurff Schmidt, Oly
    Arlene Limas, Oly
    Stacey Liapis-Fuchsgruber, Oly
    Troy Dumias, Oly
    Justin Dumias, Oly
    Christopher R. (Tiff) Wood, Oly
    Tim Caldwell, Oly
    John Morton, Oly
    Loren Drum, Oly
    Laurel (Brassey) Iverson, Oly, former AAC member
    Jay Bowerman, Oly
    Richard Mize, Oly
    Glen Eberle, Oly
    Dennis Donahue, Oly
    Megan Neyer, Ph.D., Oly
    Erik Henriksen, Oly
    Dennis Donahue, Oly
    Judy Blumberg, Oly
    Tom Lough, Ph.D., Oly
    Caroline Pingatore Holmes, Oly
    David C. Johnson, M.D., Oly
    Dana Schoenfield Reyes, Oly
    Pat Winslow Connolly, Oly
    Arlene Limas, Oly
    Jeff Olson, Oly
    Khadevis Robinson, Oly
    Jim Galanes, Oly
    Keith Frostad, Oly
    Victoria King, M.D., Oly
    Lynette Love, Oly
    Kay Poe Sheffield, Oly
    Julia Chase-Brand, Oly
    Kendis Moore Drake, Oly
    Pete Karns, Oly
    Caroline Lalive, Oly
    Jeffrey Swider-Peltz, Oly
    Cathy Jean Marino, Oly
    Alison Owen Bradley, Oly
    Horace Holden, Oly
    Sue Baker, Oly
    Craig Ward, Oly
    Bill Koch, Oly
    Debbie Meyer, Oly
    Jeff Farrell, Oly
    Jim Henry, Oly
    Joe Lamb, Oly
    Levi Kirkpatrick, Oly
    George Mount, Oly
    Steve Cohen, Oly
    Jan Margo Henne, Oly
    Kevin Brochman, Oly
    Randy Barnes, Oly
    Justin Spring, Oly
    Cale Simmons, Oly
    Chelle Stack Marcella, Oly
    Kellie Wells Brinkley, Oly
    Lauren Gibbs, Oly
    Nathan Schrimsher, Oly
    Keith Brantly, Oly
    Carol Newnan Cronin, Oly
    Russell Hodge, Oly
    Jimmy Pino, Oly
    Ralph Wakley, Oly
    Craig Lincoln, Oly
    Michael Roth, Oly
    Matthew Laue, Oly
    Tasha Schwikert, Oly
    Russell Hodge, Oly
    Larissa Boyce, Oly
    Rick Early, Oly
    Barb McGrath, Oly
    Christine Witty, Oly
    Phoebe Mills, Oly
    Lauren McFall Gardner, Oly
    B.J. Bedford Miller, Oly
    Greg Ruckman, Oly
    Samantha Livingstone, Oly
    John Caldwell, Oly and Oly Coach
    Janet Ely, Oly and Coach
    Bob Balk, Paralympian
    Jon Lujan, Paralympian
    Tahl Leibovitz, Paralympian
    Ted Fey, Ph.D., Paralympian and IPC Member
    Marty Hall, Oly Coach
    Don Gambril, Oly Coach
    Frank Thomas, Oly Coach
    Jan Olesinski, Oly and Coach
    Tracy Sundlun, Oly Team Manager
    Monica Rowland, Elite Athlete and AAC Member
    Art Stegen, Nat’l Team Coach
    Doe Yamashiro, DO, Nat’l Team
    Dagny Knutson, Nat’l Team Vanessa Atler, Nat’l Team
    Peggy Haslach, Nat’l Team
    Estee Pryor, Nat’l Team
    Chris Riegel, Nat’l Team
    Christine Loock, M.D., Nat’l Team
    Patty Spees Maysent, Nat’l Team
    John Walker, Nat’l Team Coach
    Rebecca Carlson, Elite Coach
    Pam Boteler, Elite Athlete
    Lara Carlson, Elite Athlete
    Dawn Riley, Elite Athlete
    Carmen Small, Elite Athlete
    Susie Kincade, Elite Athlete
    Perry Toles, J.D., Elite Athlete
    Nate Di Palma, Elite Athlete
    Rachael Presler, J.D., Elite Athlete
    Julie Whitman DeLucia
    Chris DeSantis, Coach


    Athletes Abused in Olympic Movement:
    Rachael Denhollander, J.D.
    Morgan McCall
    Sarah Klein, J.D.
    Danielle Moore, Psy.D.
    Amanda Thomashow
    Chrissy Weathersby Ball
    Larissa Boyce
    Sara Teristi
    Diana Nyad
    Courtney Kiehl
    Bridie Farrell
    Jancy Thompson
    Debra Denithorne Grodensky
    Dani Bostick
    Mandy Maloon
    Melissa Merson
    Olivia Venuto
    Danielle Moore, Psy.D.
    Louise Harder
    Grace French
    Sarah Power Barnard
    Kay Rogness
    Julie Bremner Romias
    Sarah Ehekircher
    Michele Kurtzman Greenfield
    Lisa Burt, in memory of Sarah Burt


    Child Protection Organizations:
    The Army of Survivors
    Champion Women
    CHILD USA
    Equality League
    Set The Expectation
    Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses, LLC
    Abuse Free Sport, North America


    The Honorable Rosemarie Aquilina, presided over the Nassar sentencing


    Child Protection Leaders:
    Marci Hamilton, J.D.
    Brenda Tracy
    Michelle Simpson Tuegel, J.D.
    Maddie Salamone, J.D.
    S. Daniel Carter


    Sport Leaders:
    Andrew Zimbalist, Ph.D., Sport Economist, Professor
    Daniel Marburger, Ph.D., Sport Economist, Professor
    Mark Conrad, J.D. Professor
    Jacqueline A. Brummer, J.D.
    Myron Finkelstein, Graduate Professor, Global Sports Business
    Dan Rascher, Ph.D., CVA, Sport Management Professor
    Don Porter, former International Softball Federation
    Becky Clark, Ph.D., CMPC,
    LCSW-R
    Jeff Dimond, Executive in Olympic Movement
    Becca Gillespy Peter
    Rene Henry
    Hia Sebastian
    Steve Delsohn
    Joan Stiedinger, Ph.D., CMPC
    Mike Jacki, former ED of USA Gymnastics

    As a service to our readers, Around the Rings will provide verbatim texts of selected press releases issued by Olympic-related organizations, federations, businesses and sponsors.

    These press releases appear as sent to Around the Rings and are not edited for spelling, grammar or punctuation. 

    25 Years at #1: Your best source of news about the Olympics is www.aroundtherings.com, for subscribers only