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  USOC Agrees to Review of Amatuer Sports Act

By David Nakamura
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, March 19, 1994; Page G2




After meeting with Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) yesterday on Capitol Hill, top U.S. Olympic Committee officials agreed to appoint a task force to identify problems with the 1978 Amateur Sports Act, which many feel is outdated 16 years after its creation.

"I don't know if it's outdated, but society has changed a lot," USOC President LeRoy Walker said at a McLean hotel where the USOC this weekend is holding the first of its three annual meetings.

The legislation, authored primarily by Stevens, spells out what governing authority the USOC has over U.S. participation in the Olympics. But the wording in the document might not be specific enough to deal with the wide-ranging problems and issues that have crept into the Olympic sports scene over the past 16 years — problems brought to light most dramatically by the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan affair. Wednesday Harding pleaded guilty to hindering the prosecution in the Jan. 6 attack on Kerrigan at the national figure skating championships.

Although officials said Harding's name did not come up in the meeting with Stevens, Walker may have made a passing reference to her when he said one of the problems with the Amateur Sports Act was that "it doesn't have a code of conduct."

Indeed, that might be one of the most closely studied topics: whether the act needs one. With the Harding situation, the USOC was all but powerless to kick her off the U.S. figure skating team before the Olympics even though she had admitted that she did not immediately come forward when she learned that people in her camp were connected to the attack on Kerrigan.

Although all the athletes sign a separate code of conduct, that code dictates what standards athletes must conform to once they make the Olympic team. (Harding was named to the team after the attack took place.) The code is not specific about how much power the USOC has over athletes who are not charged with a crime (which Harding wasn't before the Olympics).

"The really refined language wasn't an issue [in 1978] as it is now," Walker said. "Now, we need to make sure the items in the Amateur Sports Act say what they should be saying because people are going to be using them now." Walker said the task force would be composed of USOC members and government employees selected by Stevens.

In a separate piece of action, the USOC was scheduled last night to begin reviewing what it will do about the Olympic shooting team in the wake of the National Rifle Association's withdrawal as the team's national governing body Monday.

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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