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AJ Kitt Stripped of Aspen Victory : Skiing: International federation denies American his second World Cup downhill.

March 09, 1995|CHRIS DUFRESNE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

He should change his name to HL (Hard Luck) Kitt.

For the second time in two years, American skier AJ Kitt won a World Cup downhill race on Aspen Mountain and later lost it in a boardroom.

Wednesday, three days after Kitt was awarded victory in the Aspen Roch Cup downhill, the International Ski Federation (FIS) overturned the four-man race jury's unanimous decision to let Kitt's victory stand despite the fact 37 skiers were not allowed to race because of poor weather conditions.

The ruling to invalidate Kitt's second downhill victory was made by a 17-member council of the FIS, the sport's governing body based in Europe.

The council, which includes FIS President Marc Hodler and U.S. representative Hank Tauber, was polled by fax.

Paul Major, U.S. alpine director, said his organization was not consulted in the matter.

"In this process, we have had absolutely no ability to provide input," Major said Wednesday in a released statement. "I can't imagine the council was adequately informed to make a decision of this magnitude."

Major thought the FIS would uphold Kitt's controversial victory. Kitt, who won the race's only training run, scorched the course from the 20th start position with a time of 1 minute 45.46 seconds.

He was still the leader when the race was halted after 31 racers because of poor visibility and heavy snowfall.

In a World Cup downhill, the top 15 racers are seeded based on circuit points and race first, meaning the world's best downhillers already had raced when the event was stopped.

It was highly doubtful any of the 37 skiers who didn't race Sunday at Aspen could have topped Kitt's time. The fresh snowfall on the Aspen course had slowed it drastically. The 31st and last racer, Norway's Harald Christian Strand Nilsen, finished almost five seconds slower than Kitt.

It was for that reason, in particular, that the race jury--an American, a Canadian, a German and an Austrian--decided to name Kitt, 27, the winner.

The decision is strictly based on jury discretion. Once, there were FIS rules that required that a certain percentage of the field had to finish to make a race official. But those rules no longer apply.

The jury's decision was controversial and quickly was protested by the French.

France's Luc Alphand was the World Cup downhill leader before Aspen but lost his lead to Austria's Armin Assinger, who finished second and picked up 80 points to move into first place with 418 points with two downhills remaining.

Alphand, trying to become France's first World Cup downhill champion since Jean-Claude Killy in 1967, skied poorly at Aspen and finished 14th.

But because of the FIS decision, he now retains his lead with 402 points and gets a fresh start.

The FIS announced the aborted Aspen downhill would be added to downhill scheduled this weekend at Kvitfjell, Norway.

At the 1993 Aspen Roch Cup, Kitt was denied when the jury canceled a race he was leading because of a rut on the course.

"AJ was very upset with the fact that the FIS Council would overrule the race jury,' Jon Franklin, Kitt's Denver-based agent, said in a statement. "AJ felt that the best racers in the world had raced in even conditions and that it was a fair race."

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