Resolving Conflicts and Concerns
Team USA Athlete Ombuds
The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee and its member organizations are obligated to provide for swift resolution of conflicts and concerns involving athletes, including their opportunity to participate in protected competition. There are processes within each member organization, as well as within the USOPC, to accomplish this mandate. In addition to this webpage, Team USA Athletes can learn more about their Rights and Responsibilities in some of these processes on the Athlete Rights and Responsibilities Webpage and this FAQ.
The Athlete Ombuds is available to provide independent, confidential advice to Team USA Athletes with respect to resolving concerns and disputes and to assist in such resolution through facilitated communication and mediation. In circumstances where more formal grievance processes are necessary, the Athlete Ombuds can advise athletes in how to navigate these processes (as a victim, complainant, respondent or other impacted individual) and assist in identifying legal counsel if needed.
One of the first steps is to understand which organization(s) have jurisdiction of the matter and which rules and policies may apply. For athletes in the Olympic and Paralympic Movement, your NGB or the USOPC often have jurisdiction of a matter. As a general overview, matters within USOPC and/or NGB jurisdiction include:
- Team selection/the right to participate in protected competition
- Athlete agreements, benefits and services, and commercial issues
- Disciplinary issues (such as code of conduct, discrimination, retaliation issues)
- Athlete voice in decision-making, NGB governance and compliance
- Eligibility issues (such citizenship, membership, classification)
- Athlete Safety
- Conflicts of interest
If your NGB or the USOPC do not have jurisdiction of the matter, it may be governed by an external organization. The most common external matters include:
- U.S. Center for SafeSport
- International Classification
- Delegation Event Specific Rules
Please see the below sections for more information on how to navigate your issue
Where do I start?
- The best place to start generally is direct communication with your NGB in order to ask questions, share your concerns and clear up any misunderstandings. You may also choose to involve your Athletes’ Advisory Council (AAC) representative
- At any stage in the process, athletes may contact the Athlete Ombuds to seek independent, confidential advice or for assistance in informal resolution.
- Each NGB provides avenues for athletes to file a formal complaint and access an internal dispute resolution process – these processes and procedures are typically found within the NGB’s bylaws located on the NGB’s website.
- The USOPC provides for additional and specific avenues of redress where an athlete believes their opportunity to participate in protected competition has been denied (Section 9), or where a member seeks to compel an NGB to comply with the USOPC bylaws or the Ted Stevens Act (Section 10). See below for additional information related to these processes.
In addition to informal resolution and complaint procedures with your NGB, the USOPC provides for specific avenues of redress where an athlete believes their opportunity to participate in protected competition (as defined in the USOPC bylaws) has been denied, or where a member seeks to compel an NGB to comply with the USOPC bylaws or the Ted Stevens Act.
The expandable sections below and the USOPC Dispute Resolution Unit's Webpage provide additional information about USOPC Grievance processes.
For matters outside the USOPC/NGB jurisdiction, which may be handled by various organizations, such as an International Federation, U.S. Anti-doping Agency or the U.S. Center for SafeSport, Team USA Athletes may contact the Athlete Ombuds for assistance understanding rights, resources, processes and options. Additionally, the Athlete Ombuds has an Athlete Safety & Well-Being Webpage, an Anti-Doping Webpage and a Games & Competition Info Webpage for more information on these types of matters.
Please note that advice from any member of the Office of the Athlete Ombuds, including but not limited to information provided on this website, does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The Athlete Ombuds will offer neutral, independent advice to any athlete, and athletes should always seek legal counsel if they want specific legal advice or individual representation. See our homepage for our full disclaimer.