Sarah Hirshland, CEO of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, released an open letter to the U.S. badminton community on Tuesday, which announced that the USOPC has filed a complaint against USA Badminton and will seek to decertify it as the national governing body for U.S. badminton and para-badminton activities.
The complaint comes a full calendar year after the Orange County Register reported the findings of an audit done by the USOPC, which found that USA Badminton had failed to follow procedures to protect athletes and their safety.
USA Badminton’s failures
The non-compliance of USA Badminton centers on SafeSport training and background checks. In a sample done during the audit and reported by the Register in October 2018, approximately half of USA Badminton members who were required to undergo criminal background checks and SafeSport training had not done either. In addition, USA Badminton didn’t require doctors, administrators or club directors to undergo background checks or SafeSport training.
Considering the failures of USA Gymnastics with the Larry Nassar scandal, USA Badminton’s non-compliance on athlete safety measures was especially concerning. The USOPC threatened to file the decertification complaint in the original audit, but gave USA Badminton time to become compliant. In a follow-up audit in February 2019, it had partially fixed several of the SafeSport and background check issues, but not all of them.
In her open letter, Hirshland wrote that USA Badminton hadn’t made enough progress toward compliance, which is why she filed the complaint to start the decertification process.
We have attempted to work with USAB’s leadership over the course of the last year to address our concerns, however those efforts have not yielded the results necessary to give me confidence in USAB’s ability to continue to serve its athletes as an NGB. We remain committed to working with USAB’s leadership to address our concerns but have so far not found a willing partner.
What happens now?
Hirshland assured the U.S. badminton community that for now, nothing will change. The decertification process isn’t immediate and requires Hirshland to appoint an independent three-person committee to review the complaint and USA Badminton’s response. She estimates that it will take at least a few months to complete.
If USA Badminton is decertified, the USOPC will temporarily take over its high-performance program until a new organization is identified that can serve as badminton’s national governing body. That will ensure that those athletes training for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will continue to have the resources they need. USA Badminton wouldn’t cease to exist as an organization, but it would no longer have any ties with the USOPC.
Decertifying a national governing body, which the USOPC tried to do with USA Gymnastics until it declared bankruptcy, is an extreme step, but Hirshland assured the U.S. badminton community that it’s being done in the best interest of them and their safety.
Today is the first step in an important process. Recognizing that what follows this process isn’t perfectly clear, we have concluded that the uncertainty this will no doubt bring is better than allowing the status quo to continue. The athletes deserve better and we simply must hold organizations accountable if they can’t meet our standards.
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