Authorized by Congress in 2020, the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act created the independent Commission on the State of U.S. Olympics and Paralympics (CSUSOP) to study the United States' participation in the Olympic and Paralympic Games. However, it would take another 27 months for Congress to fund this Commission, which they finally did so in 2022.
Since that time, the Commission, led by its executive director Kevin Brown and co-chairs Dionne Koller and Han Xiao, has been charged with ten areas of study, including recent and proposed reforms to the structure of USOPC, the function of National Governing Bodies, and the participation of disabled individuals in amateur athletes. The Commission will complete its work by September 30 and deliver a report in Spring 2024.
The Amateur Sports Act of 1978—also known as the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act after the Alaskan Senator that endorsed it—granted the USOC with the exclusive authority of overseeing the United States Olympic Team. In 1998, Congress reauthorized the act to add the Paralympic Games to USOC’s scope and to remove the amateurism requirement. In 2020, the Act was amended to reflect the name change from the United States Olympic Committee to the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC).
Despite the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act continues to exclude the Deaflympics in its mandate. The Act has also never been reviewed through the lens of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the USOPC currently does not include ADA compliance as a criteria its National Governing Bodies must meet for certification.
Further, contrary to the fact that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognizes the Deaflympics, the USOPC does not recognize the Deaflympics as being part of its core mission. The diminished status of the Deaflympics within the Olympic and Paralympic movement in the United States has regretfully contributed to an unequal sports landscape for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Americans. Unfortunately, the lack of equality for our Deaflympians has also created an environment in which Deaf and Hard of Hearing athletes face increased risk of abuse, mistreatment, and discrimination.
USADSF has been in contact with the CSUSOP to ensure that the Commissioners are well aware of the above issues and the continued challenges faced by Deaflympians and Deaf and Hard of Hearing athletes at every level throughout the country. Additionally, we believe that it is important that the Commission hears directly from our community and to listen to personal stories relating to how the above issues are impacting our athletes.
Call to Action
USADSF is calling on our stakeholders—athletes, coaches, fans, organizers, parents, family, and friends, community leaders, athletic directors, superintendents, researchers, organizations, and advocacy groups—to submit a letter or comment to the CSUSOP during its public comment period, which ends on July 31, 2023. Letters and commentary should address the urgent need to insert the Deaflympics into the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act and to enact funding mechanisms that will support Deaf and Hard of Hearing athletes so that so that Deaf and Hard of Hearing Americans are better protected from abuse, mistreatment, and discrimination and are afforded equal access to the provisions of the Act as covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
To do so, you may use a template letter, or provide your own comments and submit them at https://www.research.net/r/CSUSOPWEB by July 31, 2023. We request that you also email a copy for USADSF's records at email@example.com with "CSUSOP" in the subject line.
For more on the CSUSOP and the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, Howard Gorrell, the 2004 recipient of USADSF's Jerald Jordan Award, 2011 recipient of USADSF's Art Kruger Award, and a long-time staffer on the Hill who played an instrumental part in advocating for the inclusion of disability sports organizations under the Act as part of USOC’s Handicapped in Sports Committee (HISC), has written two pieces of commentary that provide additional insight on why the CSUSOP’s work is relevant to the Deaflympic movement in the United States: