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USATF Must Comply or Face Revocation

Olympics: USOC vote demands that track and field governing body adhere to anti-doping and accounting rules.

April 22, 2002|ALAN ABRAHAMSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BOSTON — Dealing USA Track and Field an embarrassing blow to its prestige, the U.S. Olympic Committee on Sunday ordered it to comply with anti-doping and accounting procedures by Aug. 31 or risk losing the right to oversee the most popular sport in the Summer Games.

The USOC Board of Directors approved a resolution that would revoke USATF's membership in the USOC and its recognition as what is called a "national governing body" if by Aug. 31 USATF "does not come into compliance."

The unanimous vote "clearly says we will take a stand," Lloyd Ward, the chief executive officer of the USOC, said afterward. The board has 123 members; perhaps half were on hand for the vote.

The vote is unlikely to lead to a revocation of USATF's accreditation. Ward and USATF's chief executive, Craig Masback, shook hands warmly after the voting, with Ward telling Masback, "We've got a lot of work to do together. This is a great opportunity." Bill Roe, USATF's president, earlier told the board, "We want to get this done as well as you do."

Nonetheless, the vote gives USOC considerable leverage over USATF in an area that has for months caused friction between the two entities and generated considerable ill will internationally, much of it owing to a specific case.

USATF has refused to identify a U.S. athlete who tested positive in 1999 for an anabolic steroid, was exonerated by an appeals board and then competed in the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics. USATF, according to a USOC report, also once failed to include sprint star Michael Johnson's name on a list of athletes eligible for out-of-competition drug testing; officials at the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency subsequently added his name to the list so that he remained eligible.

In addition, USATF suffered from a host of logistical problems last year in coordinating drug tests at various meets, according to a March 29 USOC report.

The USOC's drive is plain to understand. International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge has made the anti-doping fight his No. 1 priority, saying it's a moral imperative that cheaters not compete at the Games. On the chance that morality plays seemed too fleeting, or that Rogge's voice might seem too distant for the USOC's all-volunteer directors to hear clearly, Ward, as mindful as anyone that the business of America is business, put it simply--it's a potential revenue-killer.

The U.S. won't stage the Games again until at least 2012, and as a result the USOC now faces significant fund-raising challenges, Ward said Sunday, adding that officials at General Motors, a key USOC sponsor, have made it plain that doping "is the biggest issue facing the Olympic movement today."

Since September 2000, senior officials connected to the IAAF, the International Olympic Committee, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the World Anti-Doping Agency have pressed for a release of the name of the athlete who competed in Sydney. USATF has said that rules in effect at the time of the 1999 test forbid it from identifying the athlete.

The stalemate was referred last week to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport. It has not yet set a timetable for a hearing, or decision. If the court orders the name divulged, Masback said, USATF will comply.

The USOC report identified four accounting shortcomings but no financial improprieties. USATF officials stressed Sunday that they intend to make the situation right.

In other developments Sunday:

* Outgoing Salt Lake Organizing Committee President Mitt Romney said the 2002 Winter Games generated a "substantial" profit. He did not divulge details, though he acknowledged much of the profit comes from a contingency fund that he said totaled about $40 million at the end of the Games. It largely went unused during the Olympics, he said, because "everything went perfectly."

A full accounting is due to be released Wednesday in Salt Lake, at an SLOC board meeting at which Romney will tender his resignation; he is now running for governor of Massachusetts, as a Republican.

* Because the Games generated a profit, Romney--who had said when he took over SLOC in 1999 that he would work for free unless there was a surplus at Games' end--announced he would accept his salary. He was to be paid $285,000 annually; the total for the three years is about $850,000. He said he would donate the money to charity but would not announce the timing or gift amounts.

* USOC President Sandra Baldwin, who also is an IOC member, said that a special IOC panel had decided to recommend a continuation of the most controversial reform point from among a 50-point plan enacted in 1999--a ban on visits by IOC members to cities bidding to host the Games.

Meeting earlier this month in Lausanne, Switzerland, the panel urged that the ban remain in effect. The IOC's ruling Executive Board will consider the recommendation in the coming weeks, perhaps at a meeting next month in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

* Baldwin said she plans in the coming weeks to speak with boxer Roy Jones Jr., awarded the silver medal in a disputed decision in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Most observers believe Jones should have won gold, and Baldwin--in the aftermath of the dispute in Salt Lake that was resolved when Canadian pairs skaters were awarded a duplicate gold--said she intends to lobby the IOC on Jones' behalf.

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