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Report urges new board, funding model for US Olympic system

DENVER (AP) — A report examining the U.S. Olympic system urges a move away from the "money for medals" funding system and a reconfigured board of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee that would give more power to athletes.

The document was requested by the USOPC and was delivered this week by a committee led by former WNBA Commissioner Lisa Borders. The 113-page report comes in the aftermath of the the Larry Nassar sex-abuse scandal and the resignation or removal of most of the federation's top employees.

The report delved into the relationship between the USOPC and the national sports federations (NGBs) it oversees. Most of its suggestions dealt with giving athletes a greater role and more access to funding, but didn't recommend how to pay for them.

It calls for a reconfiguration of policies developed over the past 20 years: In 2003, the board was reduced from more than 120 to 12 to 15 people. About seven years later, more emphasis was placed on using medal potential as the primary factor in determining how much money to give NGBs. The money given to the NGBs is earmarked for athlete support.

The Borders Report recommended changing this focus, and basing the formula more on strategic plans that outline how the NGBs will account for athlete safety and support. "Although maintaining such medal driven programs is important, other programmatic funding and support programs must be offered to NGBs based on the USOPC's approval of an NGB's strategic plan and high-performance plan and its performance in accordance with such plans," the report said.

Committee members interviewed 62 people, some having "significant and serious concerns about possible retaliation for helping the Commission," the report said. "Such fears highlight a lack of trust relative to the USOPC of the recent past and the NGBs," the report said.

It suggested the USOPC hire outsiders to conduct annual assessments to "monitor the evolution toward a more athlete-centric" organization. The commission called for more athletes on the USOPC board by 2024, and for all of the federation's committees, working groups and task force to have at least 20 percent athlete representation — a figure that has been adhered to in many instances for decades.

The commission also suggested an overhaul and expansion of the USOPC's "limited and byzantine athlete health care" and for a direct-funding pipeline to athletes — two projects that would cost millions for an organization that receives no government funding.

While acknowledging some of its recommendations could be costly, the committee said "the USOPC has an "opportunity to reflect and self-evaluate in real time." The USOPC has made some governance changes since CEO Sarah Hirshland took over last year; many have been designed to give athletes a bigger say and easier pathways to lodge complaints. But critics say none of this has gone far enough and want yet another overhaul of the board and management.

"With changes to governance and personnel, policies and procedures — and most importantly, culture — we are a very different organization than we were one year ago," Hirshland said. "But we have more work to do."

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