In the first major test case involving the reorganization of the American Olympic movement, an international sports body has rejected the procedures crucial to the restructuring, clamming judges and professional arbiters are "incompetent" to decide sports matters.
The action by the executive board of the International Amateur Wrestling Federation (FILA), meeting in Madrid last week, has caused consternation in amateur sports circles over its possible repercussions.
There is concern that FILA's action - if not reVersed in subsequent forums - could set a precedent for othe international federations to attempt to dicate to the United States which organizations may represent the country in international competition.
There also is apprehension that if the FILA decision stands, it will provide more fodder for congressional foes of a $16 million authorization approved in the final moments of the last session to aid the Olympic reorganization. About $10 million that is to be used to help national governing bodies develop broad-based programs for the American public.
The FILA action came on a case involving a long, entangled challenge by the NCAA-affiliated U.S. Wrestling Federation (USWF) to unseat the Athletic Union (AAUWD) as the national governing body in the sport.
David Maggard, chairman of the NCAA's international relations committee and a former Olympian, said the organization would be monitoring the progress of the USWF challenge and any congressional appropriations "very, very carefully."
The NCAA rejoined the U.S. Olympic Committee last year, largely as a result of the reorganization plan the USOC voluntarily adopted before Congress codified it into law as the Amateur Sports Act of 1978.
Amond other features, the new constitution established criteria for becoming a national governing body and called for binding arbitration challenges over recognition. It was supposed to end jurisdicational feuding between the NCAA and AAU, neither of which can be a national governing body.
The FILA ruling, Maggard said, "makes almost a sham out of the Amateur Sports Act. I don't think it was the intent (of the act) that an organization like FILA could dictate who can participate in the Olympic Games. And this wrestling situation is just an example. This is a broader issue than a power struggle between two organizations like the AAU and the NCAA. It's a matter of principle."
The USWF contended in its challenge that it offered a better program in the sport and was more representative of its interests than the AAUWD Olympic Committee to be the national governing body.
In 1977, the USWF, in accordance with the USOC Constitution, petitioned the American Arbitration Association to decide if it or the AAU should be the national governing body.
The AAA ruled in favor of the USWF in September, but the AAUWD claimed the AAA had exceeded its authority. The USWF sued in federal court in Chicago, where the judge confirmed the arbiters' award.
Eventually, D.C. Superior Court Judge William E. Stewart ruled that the USWF should be the designated national governing body until FILA could formally recognize it, probably in 1980. Stewart ordered USOC and AAUWD to support the USWF's application to FILA and to do nothing to hinder it.
But in a decision that cited the AAUWD's "30-year loyalty" and contributions, FILA's executive board said it would not recognize the validity of the AAA and D.C. Superior Court decisions, "considering them incompetent to rule sports issues, as being outside sports."
"We're disappointed that the wrestling problem cannot be expeditiously resolved," said USOC Executive Director F. Don Miller. "We will continue to pursue a resolution in the international arena . . ."