The power and influence of athletes on the running of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC) was extended today, with the signing of an agreement guaranteeing the Athletes' Advisory Council (AAC) "professional, independent operational support".
USOPC will provide AAC with an initial annual budget of $525,000 (£401,000/€476,000), and will increase the budget 2 per cent each year.
According to a USOPC release, this will provide "professional, independent operational support to enable the AAC to more effectively and professionally advise the USOPC on behalf of US Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
"The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) provides the AAC financial and administrative resources, envisions the hiring of an executive director and gives the AAC full autonomy regarding the allocation of its budget and personnel."
The MoU was signed by AAC Chair Han Xiao and the USOPC chief executive Sarah Hirshland.
"This agreement is another important step in our ongoing efforts to place athletes at the heart of everything we do," Hirshland said.
"The input and feedback of the athlete community must guide our organisational decision-making and these resources will enhance that communication process.
"I'm grateful to Han Xiao and the entire AAC leadership team for their continued collaboration.
"A professional staff to assist the elected, volunteer leadership of the AAC will enable athletes to more effectively advise our team on an increasingly diverse and complex set of issues and policies and ensure that athletes' needs and voices are well-represented."
According to the USOPC, the funding will support staffing, projects and travel for the AAC, which will also have access to internal USOPC administrative services.
"This commitment from the USOPC to provide resources to professionalise the AAC has the potential to be an incredibly significant moment in the history of the organisation," Xiao said.
"Today's elite athletes are facing more numerous and complex issues than ever before, which means that the AAC must evolve and adapt to provide robust voice and representation for those athletes moving forward.
"This agreement is an important step towards that goal.
"We would like to thank Sarah Hirshland for engaging us in earnest and productive conversations that led to this exciting development, and we look forward to using our new resources and staff in the coming years to better serve the athletes we represent."
The MoU, signed by Hirshland and Xiao, is initially effective through to December 31 2024, and will be annually reviewed by the AAC and USOPC.
The MoU follows a 2019 restructuring of the USOPC internal organisation as part of the most sweeping governance reforms in nearly two decades, underscoring a commitment to athlete representation, athlete safety and governance best practice.