Olympic Oversight Bill Lacks Muscle To Achieve Grand Goals

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Professor Mark Conrad provided his thoughts for a Law360 article on recent legislation aimed at increasing Congressional oversight over the committee that governs U.S. Olympic teams.

The Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2019 would allow Congress to pass a “joint resolution” to dissolve the board of directors of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and revoke the certification of an individual Olympic sport national governing body if lawmakers believe they are not upholding duties to promote Olympic sports and the safety of athletes.

The law would further require the USOPC to provide $20 million in annual funding to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, an independent organization tasked with stopping abuse in Olympic sports. Since being officially authorized by Congress in 2017, the organization has complained that it has been overwhelmed with abuse allegations.

Yet international sports legal experts say that while the new bill, introduced by U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., includes some long-overdue reforms, it does not go far enough with oversight of the U.S. Olympic sports organizations and fails to provide adequate funding for the Center for SafeSport.

“It is a very, very good first step; it addresses some of the core issues that are so endemic with these athletic organizations,” said Mark Conrad, a law and ethics professor at Fordham University. “Ideally, it could go further in terms of transparency requirements and independent ethics watchdogs. But I think it is certainly a long-delayed step in the right direction.”

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