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American Arbitration Association, Commercial Arbitration Tribunal, Final Decision

Case Number: 10-20-0015-8031

James Giorgio, Estate of Robert Gage, Mitchell Steege; Eduardo Zavala Sanchez; Dylan Harries, Thomas Navarro; Thomas Serio, Claimants,


United States Equestrian Federation, Respondent

Final Decision

Athletes Equity Resource Center

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Athletes Equity Resource Center (AERC) held its fourth public meeting on February 19, 2024, in Wellington, FL, and Beverly Hills, CA. Presentations by attorneys and investigators handling disciplinary cases on behalf of both complainants and respondents in NBG and SafeSport resolution proceedings. AERC board members were also in attendance.

Several key speakers shared their comments, knowledge, and insights:

Bonnie Navin, our longtime legal stalwart, outlined the need for more due process in SafeSport’s disciplinary procedures. She also stated that the goals talked about in previous meetings have been attained. Having exhausted administrative remedies, the next step is Federal Court. We are now at that point.

Russell Prince of Bryan & Prince, PA, described his experiences as an attorney in 38 different NGB SafeSport cases. One thing stands out in all of these cases: although it is clear that the Center for SafeSport is needed, weaponization of the SafeSport code was never the intent of Congress. Yet reviews of their issues have not protected athletes from false and weaponized claims. Mr. Prince has cases pending in the near future that include a criminal court factor. 

His sports law firm, Bryan & Prince PA, also offers a SafeSport training seminar for coaches and parents. It educates them on how to avoid SafeSport code issues that make it easy for someone to misuse the code. For more information about this, go to

Tamara Tucker of Tucker Law PLC spoke as the lead attorney heading the federal court case that will be filed within the next few weeks. She is a tough, smart, articulate legal advocate with decades of experience, and she is the right attorney to take this issue to federal court.

Steve Silvey of Patterson Law Firm in Chicago discussed the American Arbitration Association (AAA) arbitration findings that support bringing this matter to federal court. He presented the exact language from the ruling, which suggests that if the question regarding conflict of interest between NGBs and SafeSport issues is asked, due process procedures will prevail, and change will be required.

Bruce Tucker Smith discussed his time as an investigator for SafeSport and the prevailing administrative disinterest in handling cases fairly. He identified a clear sport bias and suggested that equestrians in particular are targeted. Furthermore, such serious administrative malfeasance indicates that an entire change of leadership is needed at the Center for Safe Sport.

Michael Romm addressed the pending IOC case. He explained that the IOC requires hearings before sanctions in its charter, which oversees each country’s National Olympic Committee (NOC). In the USA, that’s the USOPC. A number of cases will be brought together to address the IOC with regard to this violation by NGBs in the USA. 

Donations were received at both locations of AERC’s public meeting. Thank you.

AERC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, so all contributions are tax deductible.

Donations may also be made via If you’re asking, “How can I help?”, the answer is to please go to the AERC website and donate. We are 75% of the way to covering the federal court costs, which Diane has negotiated with a capped amount that AERC will be responsible for paying. AES will be contributing to the declaratory judgement federal court filing.


                                                        AERC 501(c)(3) donations are tax deductible 

                           –  [email protected]



In a first of its kind case, a panel of three arbitrators has decided that the process used by the US Center for SafeSport (CSS) likely violates the rights of Olympic Movement participants under the Ted Stevens Amateur and Olympic Sports Act. A group of equestrians challenged the process alleging that the United States Equestrian Federation had violated the Sports Act when it imposed the decisions by the Center. As a result, the equestrians contended, the Federation was no longer eligible to serve as the National Governing Body for Equestrian Sport. Issued on December 27, 2023, the complete written determination is waiting public posting by the USOPC.

The equestrians were represented by Tamara Tucker of Charlottesville, Virginia, Michael Romm of Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and Steve Silvey of Chicago, IL.

Ms. Tucker filed the first non-compliance complaint for lead claimant, James Giorgio, in August 2019. Additional claimants were represented by Mr. Romm. Mr. Silvey joined the case prior to the arbitration trial.

Ms. Tucker explained, “Mr. Giorgio’s first contact with the Center for SafeSport was a letter out of the blue permanently banning him. He did not receive any notice that he was under investigation prior to that. But even when notice is properly given, the process still violates the Sports Act because you only get a hearing after a final sanction is imposed, and then in order to get the hearing, you have to pay close to $6,000.00. That is just wrong.”

Mr. Romm added, “our position was that not only does the Center’s process violate the Sports Act, it violates the IOC Charter and jeopardizes the standing of US athletes to participate in the Olympics. There is no reason for the Center to operate this way when the right of athletes to get a hearing before being declared ineligible has been part of the Olympic Movement for over 50 years.”

The arbitration panel leveled harsh criticism at the USOPC, the USEF, and the Center for SafeSport:

“For nearly ten years, Respondent and the USOPC have failed to take the steps necessary to address the conflict between the due process rights provided by the CSS/SafeSport Code and the PDH right identified in Section 220522(a)(8) and potentially Section 22054l(a)(l)(H)of the Ted Stevens Act. This case only scratched the surface regarding the reasons why Respondent and the USOPC agreed to remove the longstanding right that an accused Olympic participant was afforded a pre-determination hearing (PDH) under Section 220522(a)(8) when the SafeSportsystem was implemented after the Dr. Larry Nasser scandal in women’s gymnastics. The limited evidence presented appears to indicate that the USOPC was either directly responsible or complicit in eliminating this predetermination hearing right when the SafeSport system was created. Whether proper or not, the longstanding right that an accused Olympic participant was afforded a pre-determination hearing under Section 220522(a)(8) was eliminated when the SafeSport system was created by the USOPC.”

“The CSS only doubled down on this pre-determination hearing issue in 2018 when it assumed full control and responsibility for all cases involving sexual misconduct or abuse in sport. To add to the problem, CSS also used its exclusive authority to create SafeSport Rules that prevented an accused Olympic participant from legally challenging its adjudication procedure allowing CSS to issue final decisions against an accused Olympic participant before ever providing a· pre-determination hearing.”

“The issue is whether Claimants could prevail in federal court regarding the legal conflict between the rules and procedures of CSS and the SafeSport Code and the conflicting due process protection identified in Section 220522(a)(8) and other sections of the Ted Stevens Act. As discussed in the analysis above, Claimants clearly have a valid procedural due process claim to adjudicate and this Panel agrees that Claimants could prevail when this conflict of law issue is eventually addressed in federal court.”

“The USOPC and CSS efforts to diminish or minimize this right to procedural due process has been set up for a rebuke by a federal court since the passage and implementation of the original version of the SafeSport Code in 2017 … In the meantime, hundreds of accused Olympic participants may continue to be inappropriately deprived of a legal right to a PDH in their cases.” Ms. Tucker and Mr. Romm confirmed that the equestrians intend to pursue this case further in federal court and with the IOC.

2022 Year-in-Review

Athletes for Equity in Sports’ 2022 year-end review will bring concerned sports enthusiasts up

to date on the progress of our two nonprofits:

  • Athletes for Equity in Sport (AES) – 501(c)(6)
  • Athletes Equity Resource Center (AERC) –  501(c)(3)

The AES Mission

AES’ mission is twofold:

  1. Achieve oversight of the SafeSport resolution process
  2. Initiate much-needed changes at the U.S. Center for Safe Sport

Both objectives are essential to the safety of athletes in Olympic and Paralympic sports.

Since 2019, AES and our lobbyist team in Washington, DC, have conducted weekly calls on the Hill. This year, we spent more than 50 hours in conversations with Senators and members from the House of Representatives.

The goal is to have direct, factual, one-on-one communication with those Senators and members of the House of Representatives who have jurisdiction and oversight powers regarding the U.S. Center for Safe Sport: namely, the Judiciary and Energy & Commerce committees.

In 2022, these conversations on the Hill concerned details of SafeSport case procedures, including

serious flaws in the resolution process. These flaws harm athletes and weaken confidence in the SafeSport process. This is not what Congress intended.

During their weekly meetings with AES attorneys; athletes and coaches going through the SafeSport resolution process; individuals reporting and respondents languishing while waiting months to years for a SafeSport investigator to be assigned; and individuals with direct internal knowledge of how cases are handled at the U.S. Center for Safe Sport,  Senators and congressional representatives heard detailed accounts directly from those involved in SafeSport cases — and in case after case, serious damage was done.

Over and over again, these meaningful discussions pointed out the lack of judicial principles in SafeSport’s resolution process as well as the erosion of athletes’ confidence in SafeSport’s ability to accomplish its mission, which is to safeguard athletes from abuse. That’s why Congress created the U.S. Center for Safe Sport and what they intended it to do.

AES supports Congress’ intent in amending the Ted Stevens Act in 2017-18 and creating the U.S. Center for Safe Sport. However, Congress did not go far enough; they neither created procedures nor set boundaries with regard to authority. Instead, procedures were created following the failed methods of the Title lX sexual abuse resolution model initially used by universities.

The single investigator process was revoked by the Department of Education in 2017 as being seriously flawed and incomplete. But now that same model is used by SafeSport, and it is still seriously flawed.

AES has brought SafeSport case information directly into conversations on the Hill, drawing

Congress’ attention to four areas of concern at the U.S. Center for Safe Sport:

  • Due process
  • Management and operational integrity
  • Weaponization of SafeSport
  • Lack of transparency, oversight, and accountability

In addition to pointing out these specific areas that need immediate congressional oversight, AES also suggested four solutions:

First, to establish the legal boundaries intended by Congress in amending the Ted Stevens Act as it pertains to using the U.S. Center for Safe Sport to protect amateur athletes against abuse.

Second, to create a dialogue with the U.S. Center for Safe Sport, USOPC, and its related NGBs and affiliates, addressing the current status of SafeSport policies and procedures that lack legal equity and making recommendations for a fairer process for all parties involved.

Third, to obtain congressional support for agreed-upon policy changes that achieve equity in SafeSport procedures, both proactively and retroactively.

Fourth, to press for judicial and congressional remedies compelling equitable policy changes to SafeSport, the USOPC, and its related NGBs and affiliates — including legal filings to the appropriate level of the law if negotiations are unsuccessful.

In the Courts

AES supports the upcoming legal filings that attorneys are bringing forward in 2023 to remedy their clients’ damages caused by the SafeSport resolution process and administrative mismanagement by the U.S. Center for Safe Sport.

In the Press

AES has offered factual information to the mainstream media, which is becoming painfully aware of issues with SafeSport’s resolution process and the subsequent negative effects on sports and athletes’ lives. Linked below are a few articles highlighting the growing body of public evidence that supports the need for congressional review and oversight of SafeSport.

Sports Supporting AES

Athletes, coaches, parents, and other stakeholders in the following sports support the AES mission: badminton, boxing, cycling, equestrian, fencing, gymnastics, soccer, swimming, track & field, water polo, and wrestling plus Paralympic basketball, equestrian, and hockey.

Every week, AES receives calls and emails asking for support, information, and/or assistance. To date,,

AES has helped more than 100 athletes and coaches who called us asking for free advice and guidance on how to navigate the SafeSport process. These individuals were directed to pro bono attorneys who could answer their questions and assist them wherever possible.

This has added up to some 250 pro bono hours so far, thanks to the attorneys assisting everyone who’s asked for help. Thus AES serves as a point of contact for individuals on both sides of a SafeSport report who are looking for some understanding — sadly, not easily obtained in the SafeSport process.

Athletes Equity Resource Center (AERC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides the Athlete Assistance Program℠ to insurance carriers and NGBs (national governing bodies) of Olympic and Paralympic  sports. AAP℠ promotes athlete safety and mental health by giving athletes access to professional counselors and other well-being resources through innovative mental health leader Canopy Inc. AERC funds a 24/7 hotline (CALL 855-639-3009) to Canopy for athletes and their families, who may be struggling with SafeSport’s process.

Thanks to the vision and support of AERC presidents Susan Schoellkopf and Mason Phelps (RIP), AERC volunteers with expertise in insurance and mental health secured a registered service mark for AAP℠ through the US Patent & Trademark Office. AES commends the commitment of AERC members to improving athletes’ lives by offering this tangible assistance from mental health professionals.

AERC also maintains a growing list of experienced attorneys well versed in navigating SafeSport’s daunting procedures and complex code. They stand ready to assist individuals who find themselves in need of legal assistance with SafeSport. AERC’s curated list can be found on the Legal Resources page at

In Conclusion

AES operates through the generous support of contributors. Thank you to those who have financially contributed toward the success of AES’ mission. AES accepts stock or cash donations. Donations to AES, a 501(c)(6) nonprofit, are not tax deductible.

These contributors understand that AES is making progress. We are addressing the resolution process at SafeSport, and we are educating Senators and members of the House of Representatives about the need for congressional oversight.

Attorneys working on SafeSport cases have seen a direct correlation between AES’ efforts and certain changes at the U.S. Center for Safe Sport — albeit none to which the center will admit.

AES’ purpose is to improve safety for athletes in Olympic and Paralympic sports; support Congress’ intended mission in creating the U.S. Center for Safe Sport; and instigate SafeSport code and procedural revisions. We must put an end to the weaponization of SafeSport — i.e., misusing a SafeSport report to handle what is all too frequently a labor dispute or vendetta.

AES operates with pro bono attorneys and a volunteer Board of Directors. Your donation in support of AES’ mission can be made via the Donate page.

Media contact
Diane Carney
[email protected]

SOURCE Athletes for Equity in Sport Inc.

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Previous Updates

  • Bullying & Sexual Harassment SafeSport Case Study| News Update 

  • Athletes For Equity In Sport’s Response to Recent SafeSport Actions| News Update 

  • The Three Components Of Our Strategy To Strengthen SafeSport| News Update 

  • Empowering Olympic and Amateur Athletes Act of 2019 | News Update 

A review of SafeSport’s inadequate system is long overdue. Athletes for Equity in Sport is here to help facilitate that discussion and bring about positive change in the SafeSport process. Please read our ongoing updates and join Athletes for Equity in Sport at:
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