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No, US athletes don’t get paid to compete in the Olympics, but they can earn money from medals and sponsorships

The International Olympic Committee says it doesn’t issue prize money for the games. Instead, each nation can decide whether it wants to compensate its athletes.

More than 200 American athletes are competing in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. The Olympic Games will run for 17 days starting Feb. 4, and feature sports such as curling, skiing, ice hockey, figure skating, bobsled and more. 

Ahead of the Olympics, VERIFY asked our viewers to text us their questions. Denise wanted to know how much money American athletes are paid to compete. 

THE QUESTION

Do U.S. athletes get paid to compete in the Olympics?

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

   

This is false.

No, U.S. athletes do not get paid to compete in the Olympics. They can receive money if they win medals during the Games, or through sponsorships and other benefits. 

WHAT WE FOUND

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) wrote in an email to VERIFY that it doesn’t issue prize money for the Olympic Games. Additionally, participation “shall not be conditional on any financial compensation,” as per the Olympic Charter, a compilation of rules, bylaws and guidelines for the Games. It is up to each National Olympic Committee to decide whether it wants to compensate its athletes, the IOC says. 

Though U.S. athletes aren’t paid just for competing, Team USA does issue financial rewards for medaling. Payments to U.S. athletes in the Olympic and Paralympic Games are currently set at $37,500 for each gold medal, $22,500 for silver and $15,000 for bronze.

Additionally, Team USA says on its website that top athletes who are part of the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s Athlete Performance Pool qualify for direct funding in the form of grants, medical benefits, Operation Gold payments and tuition assistance. 

USA Wrestling also has a “Living the Dream Medal Fund” to compensate athletes who win medals in world championships and at the Olympics. Corporations may also provide compensation to individual athletes or teams through sponsorships during the Olympics.

Olympic athletes in the U.S. do not have to pay a “victory tax” for any reward money they receive after former President Barack Obama signed a bill into law in October 2016. That means the IRS cannot tax most medals or other prizes awarded to Olympic athletes.

Some Olympians and other elite athletes have said they rely on income outside of the money they get from competing. A survey from Team USA found that more than half of the athletes who responded to the survey said they earn less than $25,000 during an Olympics year, with one quarter of them relying on income outside of sports. One-third of the athletes said they rely primarily on competition prize money and sponsorships for their income.

So we can VERIFY it’s false that U.S. athletes are paid to compete in the Olympics. Many rely on income outside of sports, corporate sponsorships, and compensation from winning medals at the Olympics or other athletic events. 

More from VERIFY: Yes, Olympians from some countries get paid more than US athletes for winning medals 

   

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