For the past six months, following reports from across the elite athlete community of fears of retaliation for reporting concerns to US Sailing or the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), the USOPC conducted an independent compliance investigation and assessment of US Sailing’s Olympic operations to determine whether they support and promote a culture free from retaliation within US Sailing’s elite athlete community and related activities. In its investigation, the USOPC interviewed over two dozen athletes, staff members, coaches, and others involved in the Olympic program. Consistent with USOPC usual practices, the USOPC prepared both an Investigation Report & Findings (containing detailed findings) and a Community Report (containing an abbreviated summary of certain findings) and US Sailing is making the Community Report public.
US Sailing participated fully in the investigation and is grateful to the athletes and others who bravely raised their concerns and to those who participated in the interviews openly and honestly. The USOPC’s findings confirmed athletes’ complaints and indicate that certain former members of team leadership exhibited wrongful behavior including: publicly disparaging an athlete and inaccurately directing any ire in the sailing community regarding the leadership change toward the athlete, causing significant detrimental personal and financial consequences to the athlete; engaging in recurring retaliatory conduct towards athletes in response to them raising concerns about the Olympic operations, harming at least one athlete and contributing to others being afraid to speak up in fear of retribution; and publicly disparaging US Sailing and undermining its position with donors by attempting to divert financial support to a new venture with misleading representations that the new venture would be replacing US Sailing as the certified national governing body, resulting in reduced resources for athletes. The findings also indicate that such team leaders lacked an understanding of the mandated presence of athletes in national governing body leadership and the role of the athlete voice within the US Olympic and Paralympic Movement. The Investigation Report identifies actions that did not comply with the obligations of a national governing body and points to a culture that was not consistent with safe and appropriate athlete development. The findings, resulting from an investigation that focused on a specific set of complaints over only a few months, are also consistent with certain prior complaints raised by athletes.
To address the wrongful conduct the USOPC identified, the Report recommends that US Sailing take appropriate action consistent with its policies, clarify the role of athletes in national governing body leadership and the process for reporting and addressing certain athlete and staff concerns to protect against retaliation, and implement clearer and more transparent key Olympic department policies so athletes are confident they are being treated fairly. As the national governing body for the sport and the organization certified by the USOPC to be responsible for athletes for the Olympics and other international competitions, it is US Sailing’s duty to recognize the validity of the USOPC’s findings, take actions in accordance with the USOPC’s recommendations to address the identified problems, and create the best possible environment for our athletes.
Earlier this year, before the USOPC began its investigation, because of varied complaints made by athletes and others and the results of an internal review and assessment, US Sailing made changes to its Olympic leadership and operations. Since then, the individuals who the USOPC determined to have exhibited wrongful behavior have not been employed by or affiliated with US Sailing.
Many good things have happened since that time: US Sailing provided almost $500,000 of direct funding to 29 athletes, paid almost $900,000 for 30 coaches, paid over $550,000 for athlete logistical support, paid over $400,000 for technology and weather resources, paid approximately $150,000 in athlete wellness services, organized the Olympic Trials, and provided marketing and other necessary support for the team; the team participated in six of 10 medal races and Daniela Moroz received a Team USA nomination in the Women’s Formula Kite at the Paris 2024 Test Event; and the United States qualified for Paris 2024 in four classes (49er, 49er FX, Women’s Formula Kite, and ILCA 6) at the Sailing World Championships. In addition, many improvements have been made: US Sailing created a diverse search committee comprised of current athletes, US Sailing Association board members, US Sailing Foundation board members, Olympians, staff, a USOPC representative, and an America’s Cup sailor to find the next leader of the US Olympic Sailing Team; the search committee received dozens of applications from qualified candidates, conducted first and second interviews with select groups of candidates, and is nearing its final selection; US Sailing’s collaborations with the USOPC have increased and improved; US Sailing is more open-minded about working with partners in the sailing community equally committed to the successful development of elite sailors and several discussions are already underway; US Sailing hired a Youth Performance Manager to better develop elite youth sailors and more effectively integrate that effort into Olympic operations; and US Sailing’s plans for more meaningful and successful engagement with our donors and partners are underway.
We are excited about the progress being made and what lies ahead. US Sailing fully supports the USOPC’s mandate regarding having sailor athletes in leadership positions and the importance of the athletes’ voice being truly heard. US Sailing will continue to take an athlete-focused approach, create an environment to ensure that the issues identified in the USOPC’s investigation will not happen again, and enable our athletes to train, compete, and thrive over the long term.