The tabling of the Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act coincides with publication of the investigation report into the conduct of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) and USA Gymnastics into the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. The report identified a range of failures and also revealed apparent confusion over the roles and responsibilities of various bodies within the US Olympic family.
The proposed increase in Congressional authority under the Act is profound. The explicit power to dissolve the USOPC Board for failure to fulfill its purposes and the ability to decertify a National Governing Body (and remove its NGB status) for failing to establish a safe environment for athletes, represents a significant increase in accountability for US sport and a commensurate loss of autonomy for the USOPC and wider NGB community.
Given the growing recognition of the need to prioritise athlete well being and enhance governing body standards across the sports movement , it will be interesting to see if the more robust governmental oversight of sporting bodies reflected in the Act gains traction in territories outside the US and spreads to other aspects of the administration of sport.
A bespoke integrity strategy, built on a clear governance platform, with absolute clarity on roles and responsibilities, has never been more important for sport bodies and their umbrella organisations if they are to maintain their full self regulatory status.
New legislation to be introduced in USA today, which aims to help prevent sexual assault against athletes in future, will result in Congress having the power to dissolve national sporting governing bodies if it is signed into law.