Some Olympic athletes get lucrative endorsement deals and make a substantial amount of money. Is U.S. Athletic Trust supporting these athletes? Olympic riches are few and generally only in very high-profile sports. Even so, USAT maintains demonstrable financial need as a criterion for athlete support.
How much does it really cost to train for the Olympics? Individual out-of-pocket costs for coaching, equipment, and transportation to worldwide events can cost between $12,000 and $120,000 per year, depending on the sport. Student loans, housing, food, health insurance, and physiotherapy add another $12,000 or so per year. Training schedules usually allow time for part-time work only, which does not begin to cover these costs. It’s like paying for college all over again — but without financial aid.
Can I earmark money for a particular athlete? Yes, but it would not be tax deductible according to IRS regulations. We can and do, however, accept tax-deductible donations targeted for a specific school, sport, or background.
I thought Olympic athletes were supposed to be amateurs. Isn’t it against the rules to provide them with money? Amateurism began to fade from the Olympic movement in the 1960s. Today, most international governing bodies of Olympic sports allow athletes to earn income from their sport without forfeiting their Olympic eligibility. In fact, in certain sports, such as Triathlon, athletes must compete in what is considered the “professional” category in order to even qualify for the Olympic Games. In most European countries, national lotteries and large sports organizations give Olympic aspirants cash stipends of $20,000 to $40,000 per year beyond health insurance, equipment, training, and competition costs.
Is U.S. Athletic Trust part of the United States Olympic Committee? No. The Trust has no formal relationship with The USOC, the organization that Congress charters to be the steward of our Olympic athletes in the United States. Our disclaimer makes this very clear: U.S. Athletic Trust is an independent 501(c)(3) corporation that is neither endorsed, nor sponsored by, nor affiliated with The United States Olympic Committee. Our Founder August Wolf recently was named to the Olympic Alumni Development Council, in which capacity he will work with USOC professionals to raise funds for direct athlete support.
Who makes the decisions about the awarding of funding to athletes? Each sport committee makes recommendations to the board of directors about athlete funding to the board. The board collectively makes all final decisions.
How is the governance of U.S. Athletic Trust organized? The board of directors, currently chaired by founder August L. Wolf, meets regularly and determines changes in major policy and the corporate by-laws.
What percentage of U.S. Athletic Trust budget goes directly to athlete support? Our goal is to have 75 percent of individual donations go directly to our athletes. As USAT currently has no paid staff this is a goal we have met for many years running. This level of support greatly exceeds the U.S. Olympic Committee’s donation to athletes, which amounts to only 6-14% of their expenses.
Are there public records of the U.S. Athletic Trust’s performance and commitment to its mission statement? Yes. We are listed on Guidestar.org, which independently rates non-profit organizations and provides copies of our recent IRS 990 Tax returns. Our most recent IRS tax return can be found here.
I thought that the United States Olympic Committee did a great job supporting our athletes. Why do the athletes need additional help? In reality, the US Olympic Committee directs only a small portion of its revenues to direct athlete support. Their income is mostly used to support the USOC infrastructure that includes hundreds of dedicated professionals working in Colorado Springs and several USOC Training Centers around the country, all of which support our Olympic Team effort and many events in between the Games.
Currently direct athlete support levels vary by sport, but are typically reserved for athletes who have already made the U.S. team. Typical funding is $5,000-10,000 a year, which falls far short of covering athletes’ competition and training costs. While the USOC funnels funds to various organizations for specific programs, the bulk of these funds do not trickle down to athletes. American athletes receive a fraction of the support that their Western European counterparts do.
The USOC is currently strengthening their Development effort and earmarking its fruits for direct athlete support via The USOC Foundation. You can find out more on the USOC website or ask us for more information.
I am not keen on supporting professionalism in sport, especially when these athletes have had excellent educational opportunities. Is there a risk that U.S. Athletic Trust is subsidizing an unhealthy focus on sport that hurts the athletes in the long run? Yes, it is a risk, but our goal is to minimize it. We encourage our athletes, through mentoring and flexible-job procurement, not to lose focus on their post-athletic career goals. We also give preference in our selection process to athletes with community-service backgrounds. On the other hand, we believe that the athletic experience is a very valuable one. Whether or not our athletes end up qualifying for Olympic finals, their experiences along the way provide the opportunity to learn real-life lessons that are invaluable in future careers.