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Group representing Olympic Athletes calling on Congress for reforms

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The group that represents America's Olympic athletes sent a memo to Congress Thursday asking for the creation of an independent committee to review and recommend improvements to the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act as well as possible reforms within the governance structure of the US Olympic Committee. It's a move the leaders at the USOC announced support for in a news release Wednesday.

Han Xiao, chair of the Athlete Advisory Council to the USOC, told News 5 that many of the athletes he represents believe there are systemic problems within the structure of the USOC that contributed to the widespread sexual abuse exposed in USA Gymnastics.

"We all know about the Naasar case, that's sort of the primary example of where the system has failed a bunch of different athletes, but we've also seen cases come out in swimming, Taekwondo, and several other sports," Xiao said.

In fact, Xiao hinted that there may be more reports of abuse that have not yet surfaced.

"There are cases that have come to light in the public and there are a lot of things that haven't come to light yet," Xiao said. "We want to make sure that those things are appropriately dealt with and that the appropriate reforms are made so that athletes are safer in the next 8 years than they were in the past 8 years."

He pointed out that executives at the USOC have historically distanced themselves abuse allegations coming out of the various National Governing Bodies.

"The USOC's stance on this has consistently been, we have 47 NGB's or however many the number is and we can't possibly look at all of them," he said. "What we're saying is let's find a way for you to be able to look at all of them as the parent organization."

Earlier in the week, Olympians and AAC members Eli Bremer and Keith Sanderson said that structural imbalance has created the systemic problems such as an environment that silences dissent.

"I've talked to literally hundreds of athletes now that I've worked with that I've known socially; there is a broad feeling that if you speak out you're going to get in trouble," Bremer said.

Sanderson added the athletes he's talked with feel like the USOC has misplaced its values.

"I've seen the same idea that we're going to put money ahead of athlete rights and protecting athletes and that I think is systemic because it's the same thing I've heard from every single athlete across every NGB (National Governing Bodies.)"

The structure of the USOC is governed by the Amateur Sports Act, which is something Congress can change.  Xiao said he believes any reforms should create a universally safe environment for athletes across the whole of the Olympic movement.

"There are NGB's that take really, really good care of their athletes where athletes do feel like they have a safe voice," he said. "But then there are NGB's where athletes are telling that us they don't feel safe voicing their concerns. So, how do we make it so that all NGB's provide the proper environments so that athletes feel safe."

The memo was sent to Senator John Thune (R-SD) who is Chairman of the Commerce Committee as well as to the USOC Board of Directors.

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