USOC's Code of Conduct Is Still Unresolved
By Christine Brennan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 9, 1995; Page D8
ATLANTA, Oct. 8 Twenty months after controversial figure skater Tonya Harding competed in the 1994 Winter Olympics, and more than a year after the U.S. Olympic Committee went to Capitol Hill to say it was going to gain more control over an athlete's behavior, the USOC still has not come up with a new code of conduct for its athletes.
The USOC is hoping to have a more stringent code in place by April but that's not guaranteed. If it doesn't happen by then, it likely would not happen before the Atlanta Olympics begin next July, bringing up the possibility of further legal squabbles between athletes, the 40 Olympic sports' national governing bodies and the USOC.
The system the USOC is seeking would be designed to resolve disputes between athletes and their federations through arbitration rather than the courts.
In 1994, Harding filed a $25 million lawsuit against the USOC, which had no mechanism to keep her from the Lillehammer Games. Prior to the Olympics, Harding had admitted knowing details about the attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan, but maintained her innocence. After she competed, she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to hinder the prosecution.
"We're very, very close," said John Ruger, a member of the USOC's code of conduct task force. "There has been no stalling. It's just taken that long. . . . There are some timing issues remaining, dealing with when a [national governing body] has jurisdiction over the athlete and when the USOC does. It's not rocket science that we don't want the Games to be in the courts. Having athletes in court is not what we want to do."
"I would say it's 95 percent complete," said Ralph Hale, chairman of the task force. "It's not in the code of conduct so much as the grievance procedures. Every international federation has some that are a little different and we have to make sure we're conforming with them."
The USOC's board of directors, meeting today at the end of the U.S. Olympic Congress, found another pressing issue that has not been resolved: the organization's plan to initiate unannounced, knock-on-the-door drug testing in all Olympic sports. Officials had been hoping that the plan would be implemented after this meeting. But concerns from several national governing bodies about funding for the program have sent parts of it back to the drawing board.
"There's an absolute consensus we are for knock-on-the-door testing," USOC President LeRoy Walker said. "It's a question of who's going to pay? Who's going to administer it?"
The USOC was hoping to begin the program early next year, prior to the Atlanta Games. But it's unlikely to meet that timetable. Nonetheless, all U.S. Olympic team members will be tested prior to the Games.
In other developments, the USOC eliminated the Olympic Festival, the multisport gathering of U.S. athletes that had been held in non-Olympic summers since 1978. The move saves $9.5 million out of the USOC's $350 million quadrennial budget for 1997-2000.
The Olympic Festival will be replaced with smaller events featuring only a few sports, which could include international athletes. The USOC also eliminated most of its support for the World University Games. Those sports that want to field teams at the international event will have to pay most of their own way.
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