Federal lawmakers passed a sweeping bill on Thursday giving themselves the ability to oust leaders of the U.S. Olympic movement, in the wake of scandals over the movement’s handling of finances, abuse claims and athlete welfare.
The legislation was approved unanimously in the House of Representatives, after passing in the Senate, also unanimously, in August. It now heads to the desk of President Trump, whose aides didn’t immediately comment on his willingness to sign the bill.
If signed, the law would allow Congress to vote to remove board members of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, which oversees domestic amateur sports. They would also be able to decertify a specific sport’s national governing body.
In addition, the law would significantly expand athlete representation in sports governing bodies, potentially setting off efforts among candidates to join a movement long dominated by professional sports leaders, while athletes’ rights activism is growing rapidly.
Lawmakers who crafted the bill, chiefly Sen. Jerry Moran (R., Kan.) and Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), frequently said they were motivated by what they had learned about national governing bodies such as USA Gymnastics’ handling of allegations of sexual assault and the case of former women’s team physician Larry Nassar, in particular.
The USOPC initially fought the bill, arguing that it could endanger Team USA’s ability to compete in the Olympic Games because of International Olympic Committee rules about national committees’ independence from their countries’ governments. At one point in late 2019, USOPC Chief Executive Sarah Hirshland shared with senators an IOC letter that set out what the proposed law should say and not say to comply with Olympic rules.
After senators, including Colorado Republican Cory Gardner who counts the committee among his constituents, rejected the argument, the USOPC dropped its opposition. This year, the USOPC took a markedly different