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  Schiller Says USOC Has No Role in Plea

By Christine Brennan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 17, 1994; Page B1




U.S. Olympic Committee Executive Director Harvey Schiller said last night that his organization had "nothing to do with" figure skater Tonya Harding's plea bargain.

Harding pleaded guilty yesterday in Portland, Ore., to a conspiracy charge in the attack on Olympic silver medalist Nancy Kerrigan and, as part of a plea bargain arrangement with prosecutors, resigned from the U.S. Figure Skating Association {story, Page A1}.

Schiller also said he lamented the effects of Harding's presence at the recently completed Winter Olympic Games.

"It's obvious Miss Harding caused a great deal of controversy and disruption as we were preparing for the Olympic Games," Schiller said in a telephone interview from his Colorado Springs home. "She also could have taken away from some of our brightest moments, because there was more disruption during the Games themselves."

Schiller said, however, that the USOC had no role in Harding's guilty plea in Portland.

"We had nothing to do with any of it," he said. "We were not part of any plea bargain, we were not part of any discussion, no one asked us and we didn't offer."

Of all the penalties Harding received yesterday, the one that she could view as the harshest of all might be her forced resignation from the USFSA.

After fighting legal battles to compete at the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, and the upcoming world championships in Chiba, Japan, Harding now has been forced to give up her "amateur" figure skating career. At least for the time being.

Without USFSA membership, Harding now cannot compete at the world championships, nor would she be allowed to return to defend her national title at next year's national championships in Providence, R.I.

In fact, unless she is reinstated as a USFSA member sometime in the future, Harding's "amateur" career is over. She would be allowed to be in some figure skating shows and tours not sanctioned by the USFSA, although it appears none has asked her to participate.

Harding's resignation from the USFSA means that she cannot compete in any event staged by that organization, ranging from a regional or sectional competition to the national championships.

Meanwhile, the USFSA's five-member hearing panel is reviewing the plea bargain to see how it affects its impending disciplinary hearing against Harding, said panel chairman William Hybl.

It's entirely possible that Hybl's panel, which was told last week by a Portland judge that it could not meet to discuss Harding's fate until June 27, might decide to strip Harding of her 1994 national championship.

Jeff Gillooly, Harding's ex-husband, has admitted to planning the attack on Kerrigan that took place Jan. 6 at the national championships, which also served as the Olympic trials.

Harding will be replaced on the U.S. world championship team by Nicole Bobek, the 16-year-old from Chicago who finished fourth at the trials. Bobek joins Michelle Kwan, 13, as the two U.S. representatives at the competition, signaling the end of one generation of U.S. women's figure skating and the beginning of another.

"I'm very excited and things are crazy right now," Bobek said. " ... I'm ready and I'm prepared. I'm going to go out there and give everything I've got."

Kerrigan withdrew from the world championships last week.

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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