Major League Baseball Players Association Executive Director Donald Fehr and NBC Sports Chair Dick Ebersol are among five officials who should conduct an independent review of the U.S. Olympic Committee, three U.S. senators recommended yesterday in a letter to USOC acting president Bill Martin.
The letter, which described the USOC as "dysfunctional and in need of review," also recommended former Olympic swimmer Donna De Varona, former USOC executive director Harvey Schiller and attorney Roberto Cooper Ramo.
The senators who signed the letter, John McCain (R-Ariz.), Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), suggested that Fehr and Ramo be appointed co-chairs of the commission, which is charged with reporting its findings and recommendations to the USOC and Congress no later than June 30.
The senators stated in the letter that "recent turmoil within the USOC is compromising [its] mission and has served to amplify significant problems that exist within the culture and structure of the organization."
"The United States Olympic Committee welcomes the Senate Commerce Committee's recommendation that the USOC form an independent commission to conduct an external examination of the structure and culture of the organization," Martin said in a statement. ". . . Our organization will provide through its administrative funding the necessary financial support to ensure that the commission's efforts result in findings that will make the USOC a more effective and efficient organization."
The letter was sent a day before Campbell and Stevens were scheduled to conduct a series of meetings with USOC staff at the organization's headquarters in Colorado Springs. In the last month, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation has held two hearings on the leadership and structural problems within the organization.
The senators stated in the letter they did not object to the USOC's decision nearly three weeks ago to create its own internal review task force -- which began its work last Friday -- but that it was important also to have "an objective, fully independent, external review of the organization."
Fehr and De Varona actually have strong current ties to the USOC. Fehr is a public sector member of the organization's 123-member board of directors. De Varona is the chair of the USOC's government relations/planning committee. Schiller is the chair of the management committee for NYC 2012, which is bidding to bring the 2012 Summer Games to New York City.
Ebersol was a member of the International Olympic Committee's 1999 Reform Commission that was formed in response to the Salt Lake City scandal.
Ramo, an attorney with Modrall Sperling in Albuquerque, is considered an expert in mediation and was a member of the Salt Lake City Special Bid Oversight Commission that examined the USOC's Olympic city bidding process in the wake of the vote-buying scandal of 1999.
The letter further stated that no monies provided by the USOC to fund the work of the external commission should be taken from those currently earmarked for athlete programs.