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WINTER OLYMPICS : Notes : U.S. Olympic Committee Passes Buck on Team's Poor Showing

February 19, 1988|RANDY HARVEY | Times Staff Writer

CALGARY, Canada — In a three-page statement, the United States Olympic Committee attempted Thursday to absolve itself of blame for the poor U.S. performances at the Winter Olympics.

Through Wednesday, the United States had won only one medal, and it took two people to do that. Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard won a bronze medal Tuesday night in the figure skating pairs competition.

"The United States Olympic Committee has made a record amount of funding available for our athletes in this quadrennial period," USOC President Robert Helmick said in the statement.

According to the statement, the USOC has contributed $7,653,370, including more than $3 million in 1988, to the seven national governing bodies that send teams to the Winter Olympics.

That includes the U.S. Ski Assn., the U.S. International Speed Skating Assn., the Amateur Hockey Assn. of the United States, the U.S. Luge Assn., the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, the U.S. Figure Skating Assn. and the U.S. Biathlon Assn.

Helmick minced no words in putting the onus on the national governing bodies.

"All of the funds we allocate to our national governing bodies are done so after we review their purpose and need, and we expect accountability on their part and a relationship to performance and results," he said.

"We are doing our part for the athletes and their governing bodies who select and train them for Olympic and other competitions, and we will do even more in the future."

Some of the Calgary Olympic organizing committee profits may be gone with the winds.

Two more events, the women's downhill and the 90-meter team ski jumping, were postponed Thursday because of high winds. That makes seven events that have been postponed since Sunday, six of which were either sellouts or near sellouts.

If only one quarter of the people who bought tickets to those events ask for refunds, OCO will lose about $2 million.

More embarrassing to OCO officials, they did not establish a system for resales of tickets that are returned to them.

After signing a sports exchange agreement with Canada's sports ministry, Manfred Ewald, president of East Germany's Olympic Committee, said that, contrary to popular opinion in the West, his country's success in athletics is not a result of selective breeding and performance-enhancing drugs.

"There's no secret to the success of GDR (German Democratic Republic) athletes," he said. "It's the result of years of planning and working toward it. What we do is give young people a chance to develop in certain sports, and we support their ambition.

"But don't call it a farm for athletic talent. We give young people the same opportunity in economics, science, singing, dancing or ballet. We find the talent and then help them further their careers. This doesn't work in all countries. It depends on the economic, social, traditional and political structure of each country.

"We're in full accord with (Canadian sports minister Otto Jelinek) as far as doping, unfairness, brutality and cheating is concerned. In other words, we're against all of that. But by fighting against that, you're fighting only against the blooming flower.

"The fight has to be carried out against the roots of the evil, such as professional sports and misuse of commercialism. When the money enters the picture at that level, athletes start cheating and poisoning themselves.

"I'm not accusing all athletes of that, but some of them. We should also fight against their bad advisers, agents and coaches who think only of themselves and the money they can make off the athletes."

Among the celebrities attending the figure skating pairs long program Tuesday night at the Saddledome were Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers and his fiancee, actress Janet Jones.

Larry Tucker, a columnist for the Calgary Sun, said it was the first time Gretzky has been in the Saddledome when he wasn't booed.

The National Hockey League's Calgary Flames play their home games in the Saddledome.

If you think corporate sponsors of the Winter Games don't jealously guard their little domains, guess again.

Thursday at Canada Olympic Park, site of the bob-luge run and the ski jumps, workmen were diligently removing or covering the identifying signs on the portable toilets.

Why?

"It could show up on television or newspaper pictures," one explained. "The organization committee doesn't want any unauthorized advertising."

Marty Hall's suggestion the other day that it would be logical to assume that Soviet cross-country skiers might be resorting to blood doping continues to cause repercussions.

Hall, an American, is coaching the Canadian cross-country team.

Otto Jelinek, a former figure skater who now serves as Canada's federal sports minister, is the most recent entry into the controversy. He said he has spoken with Marat Gramov, the Soviet sports minister, expressing his regret over Hall's remarks and disassociating the Canadian government from them.

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