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Fri, April 26, 2024

USA Track & Field expands maternity policy, giving athletes more time

USA Track & Field expands maternity policy, giving athletes more time

USA Track and Field (USATF) will extend maternity support for elite athletes beyond the year of support offered by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC).

The USOPC covers athlete stipends and elite athlete health insurance for a year after the end of a pregnancy. Recognising that it can take longer than a year to return to elite competition, USATF will offer funding and support after the USOPC-covered year, including reimbursements for COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) premiums.

The announcement came after years of advocacy by retired American sprinter Allyson Felix, the most decorated woman in Olympic track and field history, and other athletes for greater maternal support. Felix called out her sponsor Nike in 2019 for refusing to guarantee she would not be financially penalised if she was not at her best around the time of the birth of her first child.

USATF's new plan increases the time frame to give an athlete more of an opportunity to recover and more chances to requalify for their funding, which is based on results and rankings through a tiered system that need to be achieved by a certain date. To qualify for tier status, an athlete must meet certain criteria such as being a medalist or finalist in the most recent major meet (Olympics or world championships) or finishing in the top 15 in the world rankings. There are other levels too based on performance.

USATF's maternity support will extend until elite athletes can requalify for their tier benefits, the deadline for which is Sept. 30 of each year. So, as an example, an elite athlete could have a baby in March and not be ready to return by the following September. If she were still not able to compete when her USOPC benefits expire the next March, USATF support would help bridge that gap.

USATF said that coverage extends regardless of how a pregnancy ends.

Six athletes are expected to benefit this year from the policy, which goes into effect immediately.

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