I am writing to you all today in hopes of raising awareness and furthering the support of our Olympic athletes. A very informative letter was recently written by Sensei James Pedro Sr., which detailed the lack of payment by USA Judo to three US Judo athletes. I found this letter to be informative and an eye opener for us all. In the process of reading this and discussing it with other members of USA Judo, it came to light that there is a fourth athlete, who has somehow slipped under the radar of the attention we should all be giving. Nick Delpopolo, ranked #6 in the world, is not fortunate enough to be four months behind on his stipend payment. The reason for this is because USA Judo has not included Nick in their stipend payouts.
What does that mean? That means that Nick is responsible for all financial matters as it pertains to Judo. He must pay for his own airfare, hotel, car rental/taxis, food and entry fees. For those of you really in the dark, in order to make the 2016 Olympic Team, Nick must compete in International tournaments, securing points based on how well he places, and remaining in the top 22 in the world. If he is not financially able to make it to events, he will lose his place on the rankings and will not have enough points to reach the 2016 Olympics.
The purpose of USA Judo is to represent the United States in Judo and supporting the athletes who can make an Olympic Team, therefore being able to represent the country in the sport of Judo in the Olympics. When we have an athlete ranked #6 in the world, who was the only one to win gold at the 2013 Pan-American Championships, who is the one we constantly see when we tune in to International events on Ippon.tv, not receiving any financial help from a group who is there to help and support our Olympic athletes, that is a problem. And Nick has served his punishment he received for the incident at the 2012 Olympics, so if a stipend is being withheld from him because of that, then what USA Judo is doing is illegal.
So what can we do about it? The USOC, (United States Olympic Committee) has an Athlete Ombudsman who is responsible for many things, but part of those responsibilities being assisting in the development and implementation of policies to secure and support the rights of elite athletes. Nick needs our support. Please join me in writing to John Ruger, Athlete Ombudsman, and let him know that one of the most active and successful judo players for American Judo since the 2012 Olympics, is without financial support from an organization who’s primary purpose is to support our Olympic athletes. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let him know that Nick is as deserving of a stipend as our other three Judo players.