Here's a helpful suggestion for U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Lloyd Ward and USOC President Marty Mankamyer, the two highest-ranking people in this country's Olympic movement.
Get lost. Quit. Hit the road. Turn in your credentials. Clean out your desks. Your services are no longer required by the American people. The vote was 280 million to two.
See, sometimes the solution is easy. Or the first step anyway.
Seldom have two people in sports done such a wonderful job of discrediting each other. Doubtless one is less to blame than the other for the embarrassment they've brought to the USOC. In a Do-More-Harm-Than-Good pentathlon, Mankamyer would be pure gold, Ward just a contender for silver. But, at this point, who cares? They should both go. And, by now, they should both know it.
"How can either of them function effectively after this?" said a member of the USOC board of directors yesterday. "It's certainly a responsible position to say that they should both go for the good of the Olympic movement."
Lord knows, enough people have begged, threatened and lobbied to get them to disappear -- and take the stink with them.
The USOC's ethics oversight committee, with Mankamyer leading the cheering section, found Ward had committed two technical violations of conflict-of-interest rules. When Ward escaped sanctions, five USOC officials, including three members of the ethics oversight committee, resigned in protest.
Ward admitted to an "error in judgment" in directing a USOC employee to consider his brother's company's proposal for a contract to sell power generators at the '03 Pan American Games.
"Lloyd is a decent guy," one of his staunchest defenders on the USOC board said yesterday, "but he has the political sense of a brick. He never saw the truck coming."
If you think Ward is unpopular within the U.S. Olympic world he supposedly runs, check out Mankamyer. Seven members of the USOC executive committee claim Mankamyer sought to defame Ward for months and attempted to manipulate the ethics process to force him out. They twice asked her to resign. Once, she accepted. Sort of. Then she changed her mind.
What a pair of beauties. On Tuesday, six hours before they were supposed to appear before the Senate Commerce Committee to straighten out their feud, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the committee chairman, said he was told they were ready to say publicly they were sorry and would pledge to work together.
Fat chance. No apologies. No pledges. A Senate hearing? Heck, that's just a chance to escalate the mudslinging. At least nobody took off their shoes and threw them at each other.
"If the executive committee [22 members] and the board of directors [123 members] call for my resignation . . . I will step down," said Ward. "I think that should be true for President Mankamyer as well, if they want one of us to go, both of us to go."
Would a unanimous vote of Planet Earth be sufficient? What happened to, "For everybody's good, I'm out of here"?
"If medals were given for bickering and fighting, the people involved in this would be gold medalists themselves," said Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) after watching their performance. "The Olympic motto must not become 'Citius, Altius, Fortius and Devious.' "
After all he's been through, it takes a lot to get McCain's goat. But these two have exasperated him. "We told them they were dysfunctional and they could not continue that, but I think there is such deep emotion and disagreement, they will continue to battle," McCain told the Chicago Tribune. "I can't tell them to shut up."
But we can. After their disgraceful performance before Congress, can we have a chorus of "Shut up!"?
Thank you. That was very satisfying.
It's not often that a special congressional hearing is called to stop a recess fight between adults, especially when one is a former corporate hotshot (Ward) who now is paid $500,000 a year by the USOC and the other is a 69-year-old real estate broker and former soccer mom (Mankamyer) who never earned a college degree but should get a post-grad degree in back-room politics.
Watching the intransigence of these two has been stunning. They don't speak to each other. They each have fiefdoms within the labyrinthine USOC, one of the most unworkable edifices ever cooked up by too many people with too much time on their hands.
Look at how the USOC assembles its unwieldy 123-person board: Forty-five are from Olympic sports, such as swimming, and six from Pan Am sports, such as bowling. Four are from "affiliated organizations", such as USA Rugby. Another 20 are from "Community Based Multi-sport Organizations", such as the YMCA. Throw in four members from Education-Based Multi-sport Organizations and four from the Armed Services.
The result? The USOC board resembles a mini-Congress! Many members feel they represent private constituencies. They aren't corrupt. But the enormous board, by its very structure and squabbling factions, tends to function poorly.
For years the USOC has also suffered from milder forms of the same feuding that Mankamyer and Ward illustrate. The huge numbers of volunteers, like Mankamyer, tend to use their size to push around the far smaller number of paid staff, led in this case by Ward. That also leads to institutional dysfunction.
With these two significant natural disadvantages, the USOC runs particularly badly if the two people at the top of the organization, one representing the paid staff and the other the volunteers, are involved in their own personal Hundred Years' War.
After this week's hearings, McCain now says he hopes to have legislation written to "overhaul" the USOC before the April board of directors meeting. If he were dealing with normal people, he might have another hearing to hash out the issues from Tuesday. But he isn't. So he won't. "We could have more finger-pointing and food-fighting," he said, "but what would that accomplish?"
Good luck to McCain with his new legislation and the small "blue-ribbon panel" he wants to appoint to develop recommendations for restructuring the USOC.
"Time is important. We don't want to get stuck in a legislative morass," McCain said yesterday from his Arizona home. "This is a difficult problem in the sense that a lot of people have an interest in keeping the status quo. But it's not a complex problem. We can find ways to make this organization function better. And we need to do it fairly quickly."
The first step to speeding the process is clear. Before the April USOC board meeting, plus all those well-intentioned recommendations and legislative overhauls, two changes would help the U.S. Olympic movement immediately.
Not changes so much as two removals. Bodily removals. Preferably voluntary. If not, then by executive committee and board of directors votes.
The bodies in question know who they are.