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  Olympic Code of Conduct Under Scrutiny on Hill

By Christine Brennan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 12, 1994; Page D2

The U.S. Olympic Committee is planning to widen its control over an athlete's conduct leading up to the Olympic Games in the wake of the episode involving figure skater Tonya Harding, described yesterday by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) as "a blot on the history of our participation in the Olympics."

If rules such as those being discussed by the USOC had been in place prior to the 1994 Winter Olympic Games, Harding likely would not have been allowed to participate, USOC Executive Director Harvey Schiller said after testifying at a Senate oversight hearing on possible revisions of the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, the federal law by which the USOC is governed.

An 11-member USOC task force will hold its first meeting Monday in Chicago to begin to develop a stronger code of conduct for U.S. athletes, to be in place by the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Schiller said he expects the new rules will say an athlete is subject to the USOC code of conduct the moment he or she begins the Olympic trials process — or the time he or she begins receiving financial assistance from the organization, whichever comes first. The present USOC code of conduct takes effect only when an athlete begins his or her trip to the Games.

Harding admitted before leaving for Norway that she failed to tell authorities everything she knew about the attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan. She pled guilty in March to conspiracy to hinder the prosecution and was sentenced to three years' probation and fined $160,000.

The USOC planned to hold a hearing on the code of conduct issue when she arrived in Norway in mid-February, but Harding responded by filing a $25-million lawsuit against the organization. At that point, the USOC backed down and allowed Harding to compete. She finished eighth. Kerrigan won the silver medal.

Schiller said a broader definition of an athlete as an Olympian likely would have allowed the USOC to expel Harding. Under Schiller's new scenario, Harding would have been subject to the code of conduct prior to the Jan. 6 attack — not only because she already was present at the figure skating trials in Detroit, but because she had received financial assistance in the past.

Stevens said he believes the rules should be toughened. "I support the concept of an Olympic code of conduct," he said, "and ... if the athlete doesn't live up to the code, it should provide instant censure."

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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