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  Harding's Admission Opens Door for Officials

By Christine Brennan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 28, 1994; Page D1

Figure skater Tonya Harding's admission that she failed to report what she knew about the attack on rival Nancy Kerrigan has given U.S. officials the opportunity to examine her Olympic status based on issues of sportsmanship and fairness, some of those officials said yesterday.

"The U.S. Olympic Committee is deeply concerned with statements made today by Tonya Harding relative to her stated knowledge of the attack on Nancy Kerrigan at the national championships," USOC Executive Director Harvey Schiller said in a statement.

The U.S. Figure Skating Association yesterday named a five-member panel to investigate Harding's alleged involvement in the incident. The announcement, which had been planned for several days, was not in response to Harding's statement, several officials said.

The panel, to be chaired by former USOC president William Hybl, represents the first official action taken to determine whether Harding, the 1994 national champion, will remain on the Olympic team.

The panel is expected to report its findings to USFSA President Claire Ferguson by about Feb. 10, a source said. At that time, if there is sufficient evidence to remove Harding from the Olympic team, Fergu son likely would report to the USOC's administrative committee, which then could act against Harding, the source said.

Because the Winter Olympic Games begin Feb. 12 in Lillehammer, Norway, that committee would meet in Norway. The women's figure skating competition begins Feb. 23 in Hamar, Norway. The deadline for any changes to the U.S. Olympic roster is Feb. 21.

Hybl, who declined comment on Harding's future, said that his committee would investigate whether there were "violations of the USFSA's code of ethics."

That code says that athletes and officials should "exemplify the highest standards of fairness, ethical behavior and genuine good sportsmanship in any of their relations with others."

In a telephone interview after the release of his statement, Schiller said that officials "need to find out when [Harding] knew" about the Jan. 6 attack on Kerrigan.

"Think of all the effort expended on things like security before any suspects were caught," Schiller said. "We need to find out more about this."

In the meantime, Harding officially will be listed on the roster of the U.S. Olympic team, Schiller said in the statement. Her name will be among those of 22 figure skaters the USFSA "has indicated" it will hand over to the USOC Sunday.

"As a matter of procedure, we will submit those names to the Lillehammer Olympic Organizing Committee on Monday under competition rules," Schiller said. "However, the USOC is prepared under constitutional procedures to initiate any action deemed appropriate relative to the conduct of any athlete entered in the Games."

Hybl said that his committee will investigate both legal and ethical evidence in the Harding matter. Its first meeting, to be held at the El Pomar Foundation in Colorado Springs, will be Tuesday.

"We will investigate allegations based on documents and information in the public domain, but it will be more than that," Hybl said. "This is a sports organization. We are concerned with issues of sports."

Hybl became USOC president after the resignation of Robert Helmick on charges of ethical violations in September 1991, and served until LeRoy Walker was elected in October 1992.

The announcement of the formation of the committee investigating Harding does not mean there will be a quick resolution to the situation.

"We are not likely to do anything for a while," an Olympic source said.

The USFSA panel includes Hybl, Air Force Academy Athletic Director Col. Ken Schweitzer; Nancy Piro, chair of the USFSA's ethics committee; Sharon Watson, chair of the USFSA's sanctions and eligibility committee; and Jim Cygan, a former world-class figure skater who now attends Northwestern University's medical school.

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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