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  USOC Puts White House Off Limits to Harding

By Christine Brennan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 7, 1994; Page D3

The U.S. Olympic Committee did not stop Tonya Harding from competing in the 1994 Winter Olympic Games, but it has made sure she will not participate in a ceremony honoring the U.S. Olympic team next Wednesday afternoon at the White House.

"She's not invited and she's not coming," USOC spokesman Mike Moran said yesterday from Colorado Springs. "We don't think it would be appropriate for her to be there for this celebration of the Olympic team."

Harding pleaded guilty three weeks ago to a conspiracy charge in the Jan. 6 attack on Nancy Kerrigan, who recovered from a severely bruised right knee to win the silver medal in the women's figure skating competition in Hamar, Norway.

Harding, who filed a $20 million lawsuit against the USOC in a successful effort to stay on the Olympic team, finished eighth after a bizarre series of events, which included her stopping early in her free skate performance to complain about a broken skate lace.

Robert Weaver, Harding's attorney, said last evening that Harding didn't know she had not been invited.

"These people ... these men ... it seems to me rather small and impolite of the Olympic Committee, but not unexpected," he said from Portland, Ore. "We [the USOC and Weaver] had not talked about it, but this would not be unexpected, considering their treatment of her in the past. This is not inconsistent with their dealings with her in the past."

Weaver said he planned to discuss the matter with Harding today, adding he didn't think she would try to crash next week's White House gathering.

"That's her decision, but I doubt it," he said. "She needs to let this thing fall off the charts a little bit."

Harding's probation restricts her to travel in three states -- Oregon, Washington and California. She would need the consent of Multnomah (Ore.) Circuit Court Judge Donald H. Londer to travel to Washington, D.C.

Normally, all U.S. Olympic athletes are invited to attend the White House celebration in their honor. But Harding's case has been anything but routine. The last thing the USOC wanted, sources said, was for Harding to show up at the White House and once again steal the spotlight from the 150 Olympians gathered around President Clinton.

Said USOC Executive Director Harvey Schiller: "We are moving to avoid further distractions."

Officials of the USOC and U.S. Figure Skating Association might be working in other ways to strip Harding of her honors in the wake of the Kerrigan attack. The USFSA could consider taking away the 1994 national title she won after Kerrigan was injured, said USFSA hearing panel chairman William Hybl, and might also consider a lifetime ban on USFSA membership. (She resigned from the USFSA as part of her plea bargain last month.) The USOC is considering taking away her Olympic team uniform and other items and gifts she received as an Olympian, as well as striking her name from the official Olympic roster, sources said.

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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