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USOC panel dismisses Hope Solo’s claim against U.S. Soccer

The United States Olympic Committee has dismissed a claim from former U.S. women’s national team goalkeeper Hope Solo that accused the U.S. Soccer Federation of violating the Amateur Sports Act, which oversees national governing bodies.

A three-person panel on Tuesday granted U.S. Soccer’s motion to dismiss on the grounds that Solo had not exhausted her options for filing a complaint first with U.S. Soccer, itself, and going through the grievance procedures there. Only after that would she be able to take her complaint to the USOC.

Solo had argued in her January complaint – filed while she was still a candidate for U.S. Soccer president – that U.S. Soccer’s grievance procedure through the American Arbitration Association (AAA) was antiquated and flawed. She also accused U.S. Soccer of lacking financial transparency and of unequal support for women and disabled athletes.

The three-person panel consisted of USOC board member Jim Benson, U.S. Ski and Snowboard chief legal officer Alex Natt and former figure skater Mark Ladwig, who is also a member for the USOC athletes’ advisory council. The panel’s statement, per Soccer America, was as follows:

“In reviewing USSF’s internal grievance process, the Hearing Panel finds that it is fair and impartial, time driven with deadlines that must be met and not overly complicated…USSF should not be faulted for utilizing the AAA to administer, or having AAA and CAS arbitrators hear and decide, claims against it. The Hearing Panel recognizes the concerted and purposeful effort USSF made to utilize the AAA to administer claims of noncompliance and to have AAA and CAS arbitrators hear and render a ruling on such claims. This was done to ensure a fair and impartial process.”

Solo’s attorney, Michael Calhoon, responded with a statement late Thursday night:

“Once again the USOC has abdicated its responsibilities with regard to protecting the rights of all athletes, especially female athletes, by refusing to exercise the USOC’s authority and power to force a National Governing Body (NGB) of Olympic Sport to comply with federal law.

By ruling that Ms. Solo must first file her Complaint challenging U.S. Soccer’s governance processes as a Grievance proceeding with the USSF itself with no athlete representation — to be decided by a single arbitrator selected from a panel of arbitrators hand-selected by the USSF — the USOC not  only violates all sense of reason and fairness, but more importantly, violates federal law and the requirement that all NGB decision-making bodies, including Grievance hearing panels, have 20% athlete representation.

But, Ms. Solo is undeterred and this fight is far from over.”

Per Soccer America, the panel denied U.S. Soccer’s claim for costs and attorney’s fees.

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