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WINTER OLYMPICS : Notebook : Bobsledder in Dispute Is Invited

February 11, 1988|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

CALGARY, Canada — In an effort to appease bobsledder Don LaVigne, the United States Olympic Committee has agreed to take his case before the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation so that he may be added as a 13th member to the U.S. team for the Winter Olympics.

"LaVigne has been asked by the USOC to come to Calgary in the event that the USOC is successful in its attempt to resolve his status favorably," USOC executive director Baaron Pittenger said Wednesday in a prepared statement.

LaVigne, who postponed his senior year at Harvard to train with the bobsled team, has withdrawn his request for binding arbitration, which he sought in order to regain his place as pusher on the No. 3 sled--the alternate sled. The man who replaced him is Willie Gault, the wide receiver for the Chicago Bears.

Gault's role as a pusher is to create friction, but this is not what the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Assn. had in mind when it named him to the alternate sled after he won a push-off against LaVigne.

"I feel cheated," LaVigne told the Associated Press from his Albany, N.Y., home. "I have taken the risks and made the sacrifices and commitments, and presumably had qualified."

Other team members sided with LaVigne because he trained with them while Gault played for the Bears. Two members of the No. 2 sled, Matt Roy and Jim Herberic, said they would not ride with Gault if he is promoted to their team.

"I think Willie's a great guy," said Brian Shimer, a pusher for the No. 2 team. "I respect his talent. He has world-class speed. I don't hold this against him. He wants to compete just like we do.

"But the selection criteria was never clear to the athletes. We've trained all year together, and then a guy comes in the last two weeks and suddenly it's push-off time.

"If I stayed home all year, went over there for the last two weeks of training and said, 'Hey, I want to push,' I don't think it would have happened to me. But it's no secret, Willie can give bobsledding a lot of publicity, and that's what our federation is looking for."

Publicity they've gotten.

Unconvinced that Canadian cuisine would meet their standards, Italian officials asked to bring their own pasta to the Games. Organizing committee officials approved the request on one condition. They said the Italians had to bring enough pasta for all 2,000 or so Olympic athletes.

So they did.

How much pasta was it?

"Tons," said Barrie Griffiths, the University of Calgary's catering manager.

Actually, it is 397 pounds of pasta for each day of the Games, not including sauce.

They even brought an Italian chef to prepare it.

Weather report: Calgarians were relieved Wednesday when they learned of the approaching Chinook winds, which bring warm, dry air as they descend from the Rockies. The temperature was 18 below Wednesday morning but was expected to be 32 above by this morning.

Local meteorologists predict mild temperatures for Saturday's opening ceremony.

The man who invented the International Olympic Committee's chromosome gender test, Canada's Murray Barr, said he is embarrassed by the 1955 method, which requires scraping tissue from the inside of a woman's mouth. So are some athletes, who, according to Canadian Business Monthly, have been mistakenly reclassified as men by the test.

There is a less expensive, more accurate method. Officials at the Mediterranean Games in Syria last summer simply told women athletes to lift their shirts.

But Prince Alexander de Merode of Belgium, chairman of the IOC's medical commission, said the mouth-swab method will remain in effect until there is another alternative, presumably one that does not require an athlete to remove any clothes.

Organizing committee officials say they are not promoting sex among athletes in the Olympic Village.

But in case relationships develop, officials say they are promoting safe sex.

Free condoms are available to athletes in the village.

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