The U.S. Bobsled Federation today formally restored Donald LaVigne to the Olympic roster after he challenged his replacement on the 12-man squad by pro football star Willie Gault.
LaVigne, a pusher on the alternate four-man sled who had practiced with the team since October, was replaced by Gault two weeks ago after the Chicago Bears wide receiver tried out at the end of the NFL season.
LaVigne charged the move was a publicity stunt to draw attention to bobsledding. He hired a lawyer and demanded arbitration under U.S. Olympic Committee rules.
A Harvard senior from Albany, N.Y., he took a year off from school to train with the Olympic team.
He took a roundabout cross country route to Calgary before the decision was final. On Wednesday, he drove three hours from Albany to Boston to consult his lawyer. He drove back to Albany to catch a flight that was supposed to connect in Chicago to Calgary. A snowstorm in Chicago caused a six-hour delay before LaVigne, the entire U.S. Olympic women's curling team and a number of U.S. journalists took off early this morning. The flight was scheduled to stop in Spokane -- and it did -- for the night, because the pilots had been in the air too long and were required by FAA rules to stop. LaVigne and the other 150 passengers continued the trip this morning, arriving in Calgary about 4:30 p.m.
"I'm just happy to be getting a chance to go," he said at the Spokane Airport. "It's been a nightmare getting there. But I think it will all be worth it."
Only two of the three U.S. sleds actually will race, and LaVigne almost certainly will not compete . . .
Dissension also hit the U.S. men's speed skating team. David Cruikshank, 19, who won the 1,000-meter race at the U.S. trials, was cut from the team today and planned to take his case to the USOC.
An angry Cruikshank was to meet with the U.S. Olympic Committee to resolve the dispute.
"Here we are two days before the Olympics," he said, "and we have no idea what our team is. It's really ridiculous. It's sad."
He said he was bumped from a 1,000-meter starting spot by Tom Cushman, who finished sixth in the 1,000-meter trials but was consistently quicker than Cruikshank at subsequent World Cup meets.
Staff writer Leonard Shapiro also contributed to this report.