Friday, February 20, 2009

Article Advocates Title IX Approach to Olympic Games

In the current issue of the Seton Hall Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law, attorney Susannah Carr argues that the International Olympic Committee should look to Title IX as a model for eliminating discrimination against female athletes in the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement more broadly. Despite a considerable a increase in the percentage of female Olympians in the modern Olympic era -- from 2% in 1896 to 41% in 2004, there are still evidence of sex discrimination in the Olympic Games. At the Games themselves there are events that exclude women (ski jumping!) or favor men's participation (sailing, for example). Beyond Olympic events themselves, discrimination exists at the national level. For example, nine countries sent no female athletes to Athens in 2004, and many fail to provide equal resources toward their support and development.

To address this discrimination, Carr proposes that the IOC require participating countries and international sports federations to equitably distribute resources among male and female athletes, measured, as in the Title IX regulations, by such things as participation opportunities, equipment and supplies, travel support, scheduling, coaching, facilities, medical and training services, housing and dining, and publicity. For example, in the context of participation, governing bodies would be required to "select events that test similar skills, such as strength and agility; offer the same number of team and individual events; and select the same number of classic and high-performance events for women and men." Such a requirement would prevent sports like sailing, for example, from selecting events that rely on equipment better suited to men and effectively excluded women from the opportunity to compete. Nations, too, would have to comply with a Title IX-type measure for equal opportunities. Carr does not suggest that they be required to send equal number of male and female participants (perhaps because this outcome is based on the result on competitions, and is not entirely in a country's control) but she does suggest countries that send disproportionately fewer female athletes be made to satisfy a prong-two like standard of showing a history and continuing practice of expanding Olympic opportunities for women.

I think Carr's proposal is interesting and useful. Though it doesn't examine every application or answer every question that would be raised by such a policy, it starts a much needed conversation about the issue of sex discrimination in the context of the Olympic Games.

Citation: Susannah Carr, Title IX: An Opportunity to Level the Olympic Playing Field, 19 Seton Hall J. Sports & Enter. L 149 (2009).