Amateur Sports Act of 1978
The Amateur Sports Act of 1978, signed by President Jimmy Carter, establishes a United States Olympic Committee and provides for national governing bodies for each Olympic sport. The Act provides important legal protection for individual athletes.
Prior to the adoption of the Act in 1978, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) represented the United States on international competition matters and regulated amateur sports generally. The AAU had adopted arbitrary rules which prohibited women from participating in running events and banned any runner who had raced in the same event as a runner with a shoe-company sponsorship. Congress adopted the Act in response to criticisms of the AAU, effectively removing that organization from any governance role. The AAU now continues as a voluntary organization largely promoting youth sports; while it still has a major role in promoting track, it is now best known for sponsoring youth basketball competitions.
The Act charters the U.S. Olympic Committee, which in turn can charter a national governing body (NGB) for each sport, such as USA Swimming, the United States Fencing Association, the United States Ski Team, USA Track & Field or the U.S. Figure Skating. Each NGB in turn establishes the rules for selecting the United States Olympic Team and promotes amateur competition in that sport.
The Act requires that active athletes (defined as amateur athletes who have represented the United States in international amateur competition within the last ten years) must hold 20 percent of the voting power of any board or committee in an NGB. The Act also provides athletes with due process and appeal rights concerning eligibility disputes.
The Act gives exclusive rights of usage of the words Olympic and Olympiad to the Olympic Committee. The Committee used this act to sue other organizations which used this term "Olympics", such as the Gay Olympics.