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Scuttlebutt News:

USOC and the Racing Rules of Sailing

Jim Capron
(July 5, 2009) On February 20, 2009, a Hearing Panel appointed by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) issued a decision that stated the provisions of the International Sailing Federationís (ISAF) Racing Rules of Sailing governing the conduct of protests and requests for redress did not comply with the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act and United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Bylaws.

Scuttlebutt checked in with US SAILING president Jim Capron for an update:

  • Specifically, what was the problem as the USOC saw it?

  • The primary issue is whether protest committee hearings on requests for redress are 'eligibility hearings' since the outcome can determine if a competitor advances to the next level event. If so, then redress hearings necessarily require a higher standard of due process than is afforded such hearings under the Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS), including mandatory 20% athlete representation on protest committees.

  • Has there ever been any suspicion within US SAILING that the USOC may have a problem with this area of the RRS?

  • No, not as far as I know. US SAILING works closely with the USOC every quadrennium when it develops our Olympic team selection procedures, and we have undertaken USOC membership compliance reviews in the past without these issues being raised. That said, the USOC Hearing Panel recommendations prompted an in-depth review within US SAILING of our protest and redress procedures. As a result of that review, we believe we will improve our ability to resolve disputes at important sailing events.

  • Is the USOC opinion directed at a section of the RRS that occurs only in the U.S., or is this a section of the RRS that applies to the world?

  • The Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act governs only events held in the U.S. However, the portion of the ISAF RRS that were the subject of the decision, Part 5, apply worldwide.

  • What kind of support has ISAF been able to provide with this issue?

  • ISAF has been working closely with US SAILING, and has been in contact with the USOC to help clarify and resolve the issues raised by the Hearing Panel.

  • The USOC decision stated that US SAILING had until September 1 to correct its non-compliance, and must submit on July 1 the manner it intends to come into compliance. How is US SAILING doing with this schedule?

  • On July 1, US SAILING filed our status report and a request for further clarification or modification with the USOC. This is the deadline in the USOC's recommendation. We have been working with the USOC since the filing of the original complaint to resolve this issue, and the July 1 filing is just the latest action by US SAILING to do so.

  • How does US SAILING intend to comply with the USOC Hearing Panel's recommendation to the USOC Board?

  • We advised the USOC that we can implement certain procedural changes at US SAILING events to resolve the Hearing Panel's concerns. We also suggested various methods for resolving concerns raised by ISAF. We will also reinforce policies on protest committee athlete composition and the training of race officials that are already in place in the U.S.

  • Is there any chance the changes that will need to be made affect the standing of US SAILING with ISAF?

  • We certainly hope not. US SAILING has a close and cooperative relationship with ISAF and any changes we make to comply with the USOC recommendation must also be consistent with US SAILING's obligation under the Sports Act to comply with the international federation's competition rules.

  • For U.S. events occurring after September 1, what corrections to their NOR or SI do event organizers need to be prepared to make?

  • No specific changes or additions are needed at this time. To the extent this process requires US SAILING to implement changes affecting the conduct of events or the rights of sailors, we will advise our membership and organizing authorities as soon as we have worked out a specific resolution with the USOC. In the meantime, US SAILING encourages all event organizers to include active sailors on their protest committees.

  • Who is working on this situation for US SAILING?

  • In addition to ISAF and outside attorneys experienced with Olympic sports law, the working party is comprised of Board members and US SAILING's Athlete Representative to the USOC. We have also sought input from US SAILING committees and staff.

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