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U.S. Snowboarders Aren't Acting Uniformly

By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 2, 1998; Page D7

NAGANO, Feb. 1 — When the president of the U.S. Olympic Committee recently commended snowboarders "for dressing a little differently," he undoubtedly wasn't anticipating they would take their preferences quite as far as Michele Taggart threatens.

Shortly after being named to the U.S. Olympic snowboarding team this morning, Taggart said she felt constrained by team rules and vowed to "make an issue" of wearing a U.S. uniform to certain events in Nagano. That was not quite what USOC President Bill Hybl had in mind when he said last month that snowboarders' "different culture ... will be good for the Olympic movement" in snowboarding's debut as a medal sport.

"We are under such authority, I'm having a hard time dealing with it," Taggart, 26, said by way of a conference call from Mammoth Mountain, Calif., where the U.S. team was announced. "I think it's hard in general for snowboarders to accept the authority idea. The FIS [International Skiing Federation] and the Olympic committee really need to listen to their riders."

A half-pipe specialist, Taggart will arrive to Nagano on Wednesday with her teammates after undergoing team processing in Osaka on Tuesday. She said she did not object to wearing a U.S. uniform for traditional Olympic events — presumably during the Opening and Closing ceremonies and on the medal stand — but that she would have a problem with being told to wear a uniform in the athletes' village or on other occasions. She said she did not want her individuality squelched.

"I'm not okay with that at all," she said. "I'm going to definitely try to wear my own clothes as much as possible and make an issue of it when I can without getting kicked out. I feel pretty strongly about this. ... I'm definitely going to speak my mind on this matter."

U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Mike Moran said that U.S. athletes may wear anything they please around the athletes' village. They are required to wear team jackets or uniforms to formal interviews and other USOC functions, such as breakfasts or dinners with sponsors, during their stay in Nagano.

"We will ask her to wear nice-looking Olympic warm-ups to interviews and, if she is fortunate to win a medal, to the medal stands," Moran said "It's not asking very much. Nobody is going to lose their identity or personality by wearing attractive gear. I have to hope none of the athletes are foolish enough — out of sheer 'I-want-to-make-a-name-for-myself' — to do something that would embarrass their families, themselves and their teammates in a public setting."

Moran added that all athletes, upon being selected for the Olympic Games, sign a code of conduct agreement stating they are willing to abide by these and other rules. Athletes must sign the agreement in order to compete.

Moran said athletes who refuse to wear team clothing at USOC functions will not participate in those functions. He said further disciplinary action could be taken but added that sending an athlete home was an extreme and unlikely measure.

Still, Moran said: "If she wants to throw a gauntlet to us, we will react accordingly."

Pentathlon Added
The International Olympic Committee today endorsed the inclusion of the women's modern pentathlon in the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, but IOC Director General Francois Carrard said later that the continued expansion of the Summer Olympics — which gives the Summer Games 294 medal events, compared with 68 in the Winter Games — "needs review."

Said Carrard: "For the promotion of women, you can imagine [the women's pentathlon proposal] did have some support ... [but] we do have to look at the Olympic program."

Michael Knight, the president of Sydney's Olympic committee, said the addition of the women's pentathlon was a step toward gender equity in the Olympics.

"The Sydney Games will now have women participants in every sport except boxing, wrestling and baseball," Knight said.

Dionne on Hold
The U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation continued today its attempt to arrange an immediate hearing for suspended bobsledder Mike Dionne with the International Court of Sports Arbitration, which has a temporary office in Nagano.

Dionne, 27, was suspended Friday by the international bobsled federation for testing positive for the banned substance ephedrine. The three-month suspension, retroactive to the date of the test, extends through Feb. 22, the end of the Olympic Games.

Until a decision is reached regarding the appeal, assistant coach Greg Sand will replace Dionne in the sled of Todd Hays during workouts. Should Dionne's appeal be denied, the United States would replace him with Jason Dorsey, who might not fly to Japan until a decision is reached. A side-pusher, Dionne is a member of the third-ranked U.S. bobsled team. Only two of the three teams will actually compete.

Bobek Fashionably Late
While the rest of the U.S. figure skating team is due to arrive in Nagano this week, Nicole Bobek is not scheduled to arrive until Feb. 13, for unspecified reasons, a U.S. Figure Skating spokeswoman said. Bobek is considered a leading contender for a singles medal.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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