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WINTER OLYMPICS : FIRE OUT? : U.S. Bobsledders Trade Insults After Race-Offs

February 26, 1988|MIKE KUPPER | Times Assistant Sports Editor

CALGARY, Canada — The longest continuing daytime drama of these 15th Winter Olympics came to a blazing finish Thursday in a shoot-out at the bobsled corral.

What were being shot off mostly--hey, it's the U.S. bobsled team--were mouths. And the best shots were saved for last.

Randy Will said that Matt Roy was a cheater, and Roy responded that Will was psychotic.

Otherwise, it was a fairly normal day for the sliders, who had gathered at the track to determine--finally--which two of the three USA four-man sleds would compete here Saturday and Sunday.

That seemed a simple task, since some guidelines had at last been established. Will's No. 3 sled had to beat either Roy's No. 2 or Brent Rushlaw's No. 1 by at least a half-second in two practice runs.

Will couldn't do that--he hasn't been able to beat either of them this week--but the argument just couldn't end there, and before the morning was over, even Willie Gault, a pusher on Will's sled and the man around whom the "bobsled controversy" had revolved for nearly a month was relegated to a supporting role.

As it turned out, nothing has really changed, except that perhaps some hard feelings among certain bobsledders have grown into serious animosity. The sleds and the men riding on them, however, remain as they were a month before these Games began.

Riding with Rushlaw will be pushers Hal Hoye and Bill White, and brakeman Mike Wasko. Roy's team includes pushers Scott Pladel and Brian Shimer, and brakeman Jim Herberich.

The proceedings on the track were the most straightforward of the day. Will's team had the fastest push times of the U.S. sleds, but his sled was slower down the run.

No sooner had he finished his second run, however, than he was writing out a protest for Coach Jeff Jost's consideration, pointing out that Roy's sled had been overweight by 3.2 kilograms.

"(That's) about seven pounds, eight pounds (7.04 pounds)," Will said. "I just feel that it's unfair. I feel I've been unfairly treated throughout this whole situation, so I'm just fighting for my rights."

Although there are weight restrictions for racing, there are none for practice runs. Will said, however, that extra weight could have given Roy an advantage in their race-off, and that being overweight couldn't have been accidental.

Asked if that meant that Roy had cheated, he said: "Yeah, yup. It's illegal."

Will said that one of his crewmen, Aubrey Jones, had seen Roy's team weigh in and that the weight commission would back his claim.

"I did run the slowest times today, but only by like a tenth of a second," he said. "I'm using a sled that's obviously slower by probably 7/10ths of a second. I've got the fastest American start team and I had some beautiful runs, it's just that the sled isn't going that fast."

Roy said, basically, that he had weighed in voluntarily, that any overweight was strictly accidental, and that Will was grasping at straws.

"Our team put (the sled) on the scales to see where we're at," he said. "Nobody asked us to. We had snow on our shoe covers and snow in our shoe covers. Nobody had weighed themselves.

"I just think Randy's about the worst loser I've ever seen in my life. He's come up on the short end of the stick three times now and he just has a tough time facing facts.

"Our selection criteria said that things would be based on times during training. I don't even think that sounds like a race to me. . . . I think the man is psychotic. He doesn't seem to have a grasp on reality."

Roy said that much of the controversy could have been avoided, had the bobsledders been given one set of guidelines as to the selection of the Olympic team. Instead, he said, there were two.

"We had six races in Innsbruck (Austria, in January) and we weren't even supposed to have a selection race here. Due to a technicality, where nobody had seen--even the bobsled federation and the coach--what the selection criteria sent in to the (United States Olympic Committee) was, Randy was given another chance."

According to Roy, the selection criteria was sent to the USOC by the national bobsled federation in 1986, and nobody on the bobsled team was aware that it called for final selection at the Olympic site.

"If we knew that, then we wouldn't have wasted all the training time we had in Innsbruck having race-offs," he said. "We'd come in here much stronger, we'd be pushing with the best, I think, and we'd know what to expect.

"We don't have a problem with either criterion. The only thing we have a problem with is that the selection criteria changes daily and that we have no confidence in what anybody's telling us.

"I think people forgot about what had been sent in a couple years ago. I don't think it was done intentionally. It was just a mistake somebody made that we're going to have to live with. I don't really think it hurt that much. We had a race-off here and it came out the way the first race-off was."

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