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United States Olympic Committee Chief Executive Outlines Restructuring of Organization

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The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) has announced Sarah Hirshland as the organization's chief executive. Photo: Darren Carroll/USGA

By Daniel Etchells |

United States Olympic Committee (USOC) chief executive Sarah Hirshland has announced the restructuring plans she has initiated within the organization with the top priority said to be the improvement of its service to athletes and ensuring their health and wellness.

Among the most notable changes is the appointment of Rick Adams, the USOC’s chief of Paralympic sport and National Governing Body (NGB) organizational development, as the chief of sport performance and NGB services.

Adams will replace Alan Ashley, who was sacked from his role in December after the release of a report by law firm Ropes & Gray that concluded he did not raise concerns about alleged abuse by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar when he first became aware of it in July 2015.

He will lead the division that will include sport performance, US Paralympics, NGB support services, Games operations and collegiate partnerships.

The USOC’s sport performance team will now integrate the operational support it provides for NGBs with its high-performance support.

This is with the view to ensuring it is the best partner it can be for the NGB community.

The USOC also intends to expand and improve the support it provide to its athletes off the field of play through a newly-constructed team, led by a chief of athlete services.

It says it will recruit for this new role immediately and the team will cover athlete safety, athlete health and wellness, athlete outreach and engagement and athlete education and advancement.

“I wanted to share with you some news regarding a restructuring that I have initiated within the USOC to improve our service to athletes and ensure that athlete health and wellness is our top priority,” Hirshland said in a statement addressed to “friends” of the USOC.

“While some of the changes are a natural evolution of our current structure given the newly-formed partnership with LA28 (Los Angeles 2028 Organizing Committee), all of the adjustments are fundamentally aimed at structuring our team to ensure we can make the changes necessary to create safe environments, empower athletes, and provide the funding and services our athletes need to perform at the highest level, while building the talent and relationships that will ensure the success of the Olympic and Paralympic Movements for many years to come.

“Moving forward, the USOC will have a nine-member executive team – including me and eight direct reports that will lead all our functional teams.

“Together, this group will guide all aspects of the organization and will ensure that we are successfully delivering on our mission to empower Team USA athletes to achieve competitive excellence and inspire our nation.”

Among those working under Hirshland will be one person in a newly-created position of chief of staff.

That person will work very closely with Hirshland to support critical organizational priorities and help manage the day-to-day communications and information flow with her office.

They will also oversee international relations and will help coordinate the various aspects of the USOC’s working relationship with Los Angeles 2028 and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Properties.

“In some ways, my to-do list will be the chief of staff’s to-do list and will allow me to be more effective at driving change and leading this great organization,” Hirshland added.

“As noted, some of these changes will take time to implement, including hiring new leaders, and existing teams will continue with their current supervisors in the meantime.

“Thank you for your support as we build this team together.

“Every great organization has to adapt in order to thrive fully and I’m confident these adjustments will allow us to be our best.

“Please let me know if you have any questions about our new structure.”

The USOC has been under pressure to make changes following the shocking sexual abuse inflicted on dozens of women by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. 

Last month, the Committee to Restore Integrity to the USOC submitted 12 recommendations designed to “better protect more than eight million young athletes from sexual, physical and emotional abuse” by altering the power-structure of the national governing body.

The proposed solutions sought to abolish an alleged “money and medals” and “anti-athlete” culture, by replacing it with an “athletes first” mission.

They were a follow-up to a meeting with Hirshland at the USOC’s offices in New York City on January 16, when each recommendation was discussed.

The Ropes & Gray investigation and a Congressional House subcommittee report called for profound cultural changes to the USOC to address athlete-abuse and a re-organization that puts athletes’ interests and their well-being first.

In a statement released following the announcement of the restructuring plans, the Committee to Restore Integrity to the USOC, which is supported by the likes of Champion Women chief executive Nancy Hogshead-Makar, said it was “disappointed” in the response to what it describes as “the largest scale sexual abuse tragedy in history”.

“The USOC is not reducing its budget, is not making personnel changes, is not reducing the size of its bloated bureaucracy, and is not shifting money or power to America’s athletes,” a statement reads.

“Rather, the USOC is merely ‘re-organizing’ chairs on the deck of the Titanic.

“The ‘re-organization’ is similar to the public relations slogan that the USOC is now somehow focused on ‘Athletes First’, while making Board appointments that signal a continuation of the disastrous Scott Blackmun era.

“As the Ropes & Gray report made clear, the USOC created an ‘ecosystem’ that allowed our athletes to be sexually, physically, emotionally and financially abused by the USOC and the National Governing Bodies.

“This ‘re-organization’ of the USOC is nothing more than window dressing, in an attempt to preserve the current USOC employment, salaries, bureaucracy, and power structure.

“The USOC leadership has demonstrated that they are incapable of reforming themselves in a meaningful way.

“Team Integrity continues to assert that athlete abuse will continue as long as athletes are left without substantial voting power in the organization, left without resources to shape their athletic career.

“The USOC is a national trust that is being abused and misused by incompetent leadership.

“Team Integrity continues to stand by our statements that the USOC Board and senior leadership needs to change in order to end athlete abuse.”

Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.

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