International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch will testify before Congress today that the IOC already has implemented the most important reforms passed this weekend at a historic session in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Aware that lawmakers, a major corporate sponsor and others close to the Olympic movement have raised questions about the IOC's determination to follow through with the extensive package of reforms adopted this weekend, Samaranch said yesterday the proof lies in the fact that the most significant reforms already have been completed or are well underway.
"Many of the decisions we took last Saturday and Sunday are in place," Samaranch said yesterday during a session between several IOC representatives and Washington Post reporters and editors. "Maybe the most important decision was to have active athletes inside the IOC. . . . Not only were [seven of the 15] elected, but they were introduced to the session [this past weekend].
"We have some other reforms to implement during the year, but the most important are implemented."
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations that will hold today's hearing, said Samaranch should be prepared to explain how the reforms will prevent a return to the organization's old ways, not to mention a recurrence of a scandal similar to the one that erupted last year over allegations of vote-buying with regard to Salt Lake City's 1989-95 bid for the 2002 Olympics.
"It's wonderful to see a lot of reforms on paper, but there was a gift ban before the rules were broken," Upton said. "If the enforcement procedure isn't tough enough, if it doesn't have the independence, how in the heck can they enforce new reform?
"The bottom line is, they're going to have to convince us they are doing the right thing, that they have the power and the teeth to get the job done. We're going to be asking some very probing questions."
Samaranch, testifying on Capitol Hill for the first time, will be immediately followed by a panel that includes former senator Howard Baker, a member of the IOC's new ethics commission; former senate majority leader George Mitchell, who led an ethics panel that excoriated the IOC and provided it with guidelines for reform; and former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, a member of the semi-independent group whose reform proposals the IOC adopted in full during its weekend session.
Former Olympians including Kerri Strug, John Naber and Bonnie Blair-Cruickshank also were invited.
Upton said he had a particular interest in the IOC's partially independent ethics commission, intended to be an organization watchdog when it was created last March in one of the IOC's earliest attempts to deal with the burgeoning scandal.
Questions about the group's credibility, function and understanding of its mandate arose during a tumultuous news conference late last week in Lausanne, Switzerland. The commission includes three IOC members, one athlete and four outsiders, including Baker and former United Nations secretary general Javier Perez de Cuellar.
Ethics commission chairman Keba Mbaye, an IOC executive board member, said during the news conference that the commission did not intend to pursue new information about the Salt Lake City scandal that might arise from the Justice Department's ongoing investigation--which already has produced two indictments--as those revelations would concern activities that took place before the board's formation.
That posture left open the possibility that major violations might be uncovered but that IOC offenders would go unpunished.
Samaranch said yesterday there had been a "misunderstanding" and that the ethics board would indeed handle new information revealed in the FBI probe or any other investigation.
"If there are new facts on the table, the ethics commission will have to intervene," Samaranch said, clarifying that the facts will be examined "even if they are related to the past."
IOC Vice President Dick Pound added that the IOC executive board, which investigated allegations against two members this past year, would have no further involvement in adjudicating cases against any members. "If there is new information, even about old cases, the ethics commission will deal with it," Pound said.
U.S. Olympic gold medal winning rower Robert Ctvrtlik, sworn in among the first seven athlete members of the IOC Sunday, lauded the IOC's reform effort.
"They listened to us," Ctvrtlik said, referring to athletes' involvement in drawing up the reform proposals. "They encouraged us to speak at all of the reform meetings, and they acted upon what we said."
Samaranch said he would tell Congress that the IOC's ban on visits to cities bidding for the Olympics has already taken effect, as have the eight-year renewable terms for all current members. He added that the IOC selected its representatives for the newly formed quasi-independent board that will screen candidates for IOC membership. U.S. member James Easton, Francisco J. Elizalde of the Philippines and The Prince of Orange of the Netherlands will join three representatives selected by the ethics commission and one athlete chosen by fellow athletes.
Upton said he did not plan to query Samaranch about his nonmilitary governmental positions in Spain during the regime of former Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, as those connections have been long known.
Samaranch, though, said he was prepared to answer questions on all topics.
"I'm very happy to present to Congress that what we promised is now a reality," Samaranch said. "We took historic decisions last weekend. We did major changes if you know the history of the Olympic movement.
"I am 79. To take this trip for only one day and a half is not easy. . . . [But] I promised to come and I am here, and ready to answer some questions."
Olympic Notes: During an afternoon meeting with IOC drug czar Barry McCaffrey, Samaranch signed an agreement stating that the IOC, the newly formed world anti-doping agency and the Australian and U.S. governments would work jointly in anti-doping efforts for the 2000 Games in Sydney and the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Staff writer Athelia Knight contributed to this report.