Amateur Sports Act of 1978

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Amateur Sports Act
Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act
Territorial extent United States
Signed by President Jimmy Carter
Legislative history
Bill Senate Bill 2119 (1998)
olympics, sports, amateur, competition

The Amateur Sports Act of 1978, signed by President Jimmy Carter, established the United States Olympic Committee and provides for national governing bodies for each Olympic sport. The Act provides important legal protection for individual athletes.[1]


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 prohibited 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.[2] The Committee used this act to sue other organizations which used this term "Olympics", such as the Gay Olympics.[3]

1998 Revision[edit]

The Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act is a United States law (codified at 36 U.S.C. Sec. 220501 et seq. of the United States Code) that charters and grants monopoly status to the United States Olympic Committee, and specifies requirements for its member national governing bodies for individual sports.

The current version of the Act was sponsored by Ted Stevens, then–Senator from Alaska, and adopted in 1998. It is a revision of the previous Amateur Sports Act of 1978 that reflects changes such as the fact that amateurism is no longer a requirement for competing in most international sports, expansion of the USOC's role to include the Paralympic Games, increased athlete representation, and protection of the USOC against lawsuits involving athletes' right to participate in the Olympic Games.

The United States Olympic Committee has used the law to force the "Gay Olympics" to change their name to the Gay Games.[4] The organization has threatened to use the law against the "Redneck Olympics," though it has given special dispensation to the Special Olympics.[5][6]


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