(Reuters) - USA Badminton could be stripped of its responsibilities ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Games by the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee for failing to protect athletes’ safety.
In an open letter to the U.S. badminton community, USOPC Chief Executive Sarah Hirshland said on Tuesday it had filed a complaint to decertify the national governing body.
She said that a compliance audit in 2018 highlighted a number of troubling findings, several of which remained unresolved during a follow-up review this year.
If USAB loses its recognition, the organization would essentially sever its ties with the Olympic and Paralympic movements and the USOPC would, on an interim basis, assume control of its high-performance program.
“This isn’t a step I’ve taken lightly, but it is a necessary one and in the best interest of the athletes we serve,” wrote Hirshland.
“We have set high standards in order to associate with the Olympic and Paralympic movements in the United States, and we must hold organizations accountable when they don’t live up to those standards.”
According to the USOPC’s follow-up review, recommendations on background checks for contracted doctors and enforcement of “safesport” training for coaches and other staff to protect athletes from misconduct were only “partially implemented” by the national governing body.
Last year, the USOPC took steps to decertify USA Gymnastics as part of the fallout from a sex abuse scandal involving a former team doctor, but the process was held up after it filed for bankruptcy last December.
USA Badminton (USAB) did not respond when asked to comment.
Hirshland said her team attempted to work with USAB over the course of the last year to address the concerns, but does not have confidence in its ability to serve athletes as a national governing body.
Hirshland will select an independent, three-person panel to hold a hearing, create a report and a recommendation for the full USOPC board, and then the board will take action.
“During this process – and per our bylaws – USAB will continue to operate as a fully recognized member NGB of the USOPC,” wrote Hirshland, who said the process could take a few
Hirshland said that what comes next in the process is not clear, but the USOPC had concluded that the uncertainty this will 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,” she said.
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis