Amateur Sports Act of 1978

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Amateur Sports Act of 1978
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleAn Act to promote and coordinate amateur athletic activity in the United States, to recognize certain rights for United States amateur athletes, to provide for the resolution of disputes involving national governing bodies, and for other purposes.
NicknamesTed Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act
Enacted bythe 95th United States Congress
EffectiveNovember 8, 1978
Public law95-606
Statutes at Large92 Stat. 3045
Titles amended36 U.S.C.: Patriotic Societies and Observances
U.S.C. sections amended
Legislative history

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.[1] The Act provides important legal protection for individual athletes.[2]


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. By default, it became the national arbiter of amateur standing - and thus eligibility - for U.S. entrants to the then all-amateur Olympic Games. Avery Brundage, who held similar declaratory power as IOC President from 1952-72, had assumed the office after heading the AAU.

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, USA Shooting, or the U.S. Figure Skating. Each NGB in turn establishes the rules for selecting the United States Olympic Team and promotes competition in that sport.

The Act requires that active athletes (defined as athletes who have represented the United States in international 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.[3][4]

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 (the admission of professionals was caused by the extensive cheating of the Soviet Union that listed its best pros as soldiers and broke the Olympic rules), 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[4] threatened to use the law against the "Redneck Olympics," though it has given special dispensation to the Special Olympics.[5]


  1. ^ Peters, Gerhard; Woolley, John T. "Jimmy Carter: "Amateur Sports Act of 1978 Statement on Signing S. 2727 Into Law. ," November 8, 1978". The American Presidency Project. University of California - Santa Barbara.
  2. ^ 36 U.S.C. § 220501
  3. ^ "36 U.S. Code § 220506 - Exclusive right to name, seals, emblems, and badges". LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-09-27. Retrieved 2011-11-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "Redneck Olympics faces lawsuit over name - Lewiston Sun Journal". 9 August 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2018.

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