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Volume 22 No. 35
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Olympic NGBs form lobbying group ahead of congressional action

Leaders of Olympic sports national governing bodies have formed a task force to protect their interests as Congress considers rewriting the U.S. Amateur Sports Act.

The U.S. Olympic Committee and various athlete interest groups are organizing and lobbying lawmakers already, and the individual governing bodies want to establish themselves on similar footing, said Dexter Paine, chairman of U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

“Because we at the NGBs feel like we’re right in the middle of Olympic sports, between the USOC and athletes, we felt it’s important we had a voice in any rewrite,” said Paine, who is chairing the group.

NGB task force


Max Cobb,
President & CEO, U.S. Biathlon

 

Marcia Hooper, Chair, USRowing

Lucinda McRoberts, General counsel, USA Swimming

Jim Tooley, CEO, USA Basketball 

Jeremy Bloom, Retired freestyle skier & NFL player

Tamika Catchings, Four-time Olympic gold-medal basketball player

Dan Cnossen, Paralympic biathlete and cross country skier

Gene Sykes, Former CEO, LA28

Dexter Paine, Chair, U.S. Ski & Snowboard

The 50 Olympic and Pan American Games governing bodies are in a potentially challenging position politically. They lack the star power and moral authority that athletes advocates have in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal, and the deep resources and corporate connections of the USOC.

But collectively, they have 16 million members, and on a day-to-day basis, it’s the governing bodies that actually are responsible for developing, protecting and compensating athletes. There’s a fear that any new regulations could fall disproportionately on the governing bodies, undermining their budgets and programming at a time when the USOC is already regulating them with new fervor.

Also, Paine said, they want to make it clear that the USOC’s interests are not necessarily the same as the governing bodies, and that NGB leaders can provide important guidance as experts with some degree of separation.

The NGBs will emphasize to Congress the potential downside to changing too much about the law. With some athletes groups pushing for a total overhaul of the 1978 law that governs the Olympic movement in the U.S., NGBs and the USOC will argue for more narrowly targeted legislation.

“We need to be careful that we don’t get so many restrictions or changes in the act that hampers how we deliver services to our athletes,” Paine said. “And so there’s a real fine line …between what’s legislated and what just needs to change in operations.”

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, along with the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee’s consumer protection subcommittee, are preparing Olympic reports. Olympic insiders expect legislation to advance at some point before the 2020 election season, but timing is difficult to predict amid other political storylines. The ability to respond quickly when action does develop is another priority for the NGBs.