-- U.S. Olympic Committee officials, humiliated after a public rebuke by senators on Capitol Hill nearly two weeks ago, emerged from this weekend's executive committee meetings with a plan of action for reforming the USOC and a somewhat surprising desire: They want to return to Washington.
U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Lloyd Ward said he intended to seek a meeting with Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) in the coming days to respond to the contemptuous comments the senator has made about Ward's behavior since Ward appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation nearly two weeks ago.
Last week, Campbell urged Ward to resign -- which Ward did not do -- and upbraided him for his membership in the all-male Augusta National Golf Club and ethics violations that cost him nearly $200,000 in performance bonuses.
"Obviously, I would like the opportunity to close the gap with him, any way I can do that," Ward said. "My intention is to reach out to him."
Meantime, USOC officers Bill Martin, the interim president, and vice presidents Bill Stapleton and Frank Marshall said they, too, intended to extend a hand to Congress. They said they planned to distribute the USOC action plan that was adopted today and is designed, ultimately, to address the restructuring of the USOC.
The officials say they want to try to convince Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the chair of the committee, that they are serious about reforming the organization and should be involved in the restructuring process, which is expected to begin formally at Thursday's second hearing in front of McCain's committee.
The action plan details the formation of a Governance and Ethics Review Task Force, which was created today and will be headed by Stapleton and Marshall. The aim of the task force -- to which six to eight officials will be appointed in the coming days by Martin -- is to make recommendations on ethics improvements and governance restructuring before April's meeting of the 123-member board of directors in Fort Worth.
"We will absolutely communicate with Congress this week to inform them we are serious about reforming," Stapleton said. "We think this group is the first step to that end. We hope to be a resource for Congress and to be involved in some way in what they're doing."
The witness list for Thursday's hearing, announced by McCain late last week, interestingly did not include Ward or any of the USOC's highest-ranking volunteer officers -- Martin and vice presidents Stapleton, Marshall, Paul George or Herman Frazier. Anita DeFrantz, summoned in her role as an International Olympic Committee member, is the only USOC executive committee member who is on the witness list. She said today she had not yet formulated her testimony but intended to make clear that "we take this very seriously and we are taking action."
Martin said the USOC leadership would not go so far as to request an invitation to the hearing but "if they ask us, we will send someone," said Martin, the athletic director at the University of Michigan.
"It would be helpful," he added, "if we were there."
The witness list includes several officials with long ties to the Olympic movement but with little day-to-day involvement in the USOC: Olympian and television commentator Donna De Varona; former USOC executive director Harvey Schiller, major sponsor David D'Alessandro, the CEO of John Hancock Financial Services, and public sector member Don Fehr.
Today, besides forming the ethics and governance task force, the USOC also set in motion the process of selecting a president to replace Martin. Martin, who stepped in as a replacement for Marty Mankamyer, who resigned last week, is popular among his peers but says he doesn't want the job full time.
Martin appointed DeFrantz and fellow executive committee members Rob Stull and Al Monaco to a working group to finalize the presidential selection process.
On Saturday, the USOC's executive committee agreed that Ward should surrender a $184,800 performance bonus for two ethics violations regarding a business proposal from his brother's company.
"I would hope, with the action we've taken this weekend, and with communicating those actions in the first part of the week, [lawmakers] will see we are serious," Martin said, "that we have started the process of reform and want to be a part of the solution."
Ward made it clear today that he hoped to meet with Campbell, a 1964 Olympian in judo, to address Campbell's recent comments and concerns -- not to interfere with the restructuring process. On Friday, Campbell called Ward's membership in Augusta "disgraceful" and accused him of "nepotism and cronyism" for his role in the ethics matter.
"It is very important that we have a single voice to Congress," Ward said. "My interest is if there is an opportunity to connect with the senators on any of their questions or concerns relative to me as an individual. . . . I would certainly like the opportunity to have conversations with them as they deem appropriate."