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  Harding Stripped of Title; Banned for Life

By Christine Brennan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 1, 1994; Page C1

Nearly six months after the attack on Nancy Kerrigan, the U.S. Figure Skating Association yesterday stripped Tonya Harding of her 1994 national championship and banned her from the organization for life.

Although Harding did not show up for the two-day hearing before a five-member panel in Colorado Springs, Colo., the board decided she knew about the Jan. 6 attack on Kerrigan before it happened — the first time an official body had come to that conclusion in this case.

"By a preponderance of the evidence, the five members of the panel concluded that she had prior knowl edge and was involved prior to the incident," hearing panel chairman William Hybl said in a telephone interview from Colorado Springs. "This is based on civil standards, not criminal standards."

Harding's attorney, Robert Weaver, indicated an appeal was unlikely.

"It's been her decision up to this point not to contest these proceedings, but she's made no final decision on the appeal," he told the Associated Press.

Weaver issued a statement on Harding's behalf saying she was disappointed by the decision. He said Harding was not surprised, however, because she did not appear at the hearing to defend herself.

"She categorically denies the statements of Jeff Gillooly and others relied upon by the hearing panel that she had any prior knowledge of or participated in the assault on Nancy Kerrigan," Weaver said.

If Harding does not appeal the decision to the USFSA executive committee — or if she does and the decision stands — she will be unable to participate in any amateur, pro-am or professional event sanctioned by the USFSA. She also would not be allowed to become a sanctioned coach.

On March 16, Harding pled guilty to the felony of conspiracy to hinder the prosecution in the Kerrigan attack. At that time, she resigned from the USFSA. Yesterday's action by the USFSA hearing panel banning her for life was meant to "finalize" Harding's status, Hybl said.

"We want there to be no doubt," he said.

As for the matter of the 1994 women's national championship, Hybl said that title will be vacated. Michelle Kwan, who finished second, will not move up to take it. Kerrigan, who won the silver medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Norway, was unable to compete for the championship at the Olympic trials in Detroit but later was voted onto the Olympic team by a USFSA committee.

The panel met for nine hours over two days before announcing its unprecedented decision: That Harding's conduct "intentionally undermines the concept of sportsmanship and fair play embodied in the USFSA bylaws and rules and amateur sportsmanship in general.

"Ms. Harding's actions as they related to the assault on Nancy Kerrigan evidence a clear disregard for fairness, good sportsmanship and ethical behavior," the panel added.

The panel's decision was based upon Harding's felony plea, as well as other evidence about the attack, including court documents and FBI reports, Hybl said. The decision does not affect the 1991 national title Harding won.

U.S. Olympic Committee Executive Director Harvey Schiller said the USOC planned "no further action at this time" against Harding.

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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