In a clear sign of the political fractiousness that has long animated the U.S. Olympic Committee, two men and two women Monday formally declared themselves candidates for the vacant USOC presidency, and none could immediately be declared a front-runner.
Two are longtime USOC inside players: Paul George, a USOC vice president, and Marty Mankamyer, the USOC's secretary and its acting president since late May, when Sandra Baldwin abruptly resigned after acknowledging discrepancies in her USOC biography.
George, 60, a Boston attorney long active in the management of winter sports, narrowly lost the 2000 presidential election to Baldwin. Mankamyer, 68, is a Colorado Springs, Colo., real estate executive.
Donna De Varona, 55, an activist for women in sports, also took the plunge. As a swimmer, she won Olympic gold in the 1960s. Now a broadcaster who lives in Connecticut, De Varona said she is running on the grounds "they want somebody who brings a lot of the outside in."
The unexpected entry was that of Larry Hough, who from 1990-97 headed Sallie Mae, the Student Loan Marketing Assn., and for the last three years has run Arlington, Va.,-based Sato Travel. Hough, 58, who lives in suburban Washington, served as USOC treasurer from 1980-84 but has not been actively involved in USOC affairs for years--though he has maintained close ties to Peter Ueberroth, who headed the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Hough won a silver medal in rowing at the 1968 Mexico City Games. His nomination papers were signed by Anita DeFrantz, another medal-winning rower who is the senior International Olympic Committee member in the United States.
"If there's some interest in speaking to an alternative for a term that's 2 1/2 years long, they have in my candidacy, I think, a pretty solid option," Hough said.
Whoever is elected will serve until December 2004. The Executive Committee is due to meet July 29 in Chicago with the aim of selecting one name to forward by mail ballot to the 115-member Board of Directors; a simple board majority would confirm the Executive Committee's choice.
George goes into the July 29 meeting hoping for--but hardly guaranteed of--support from the national governing bodies (NGB), which oversee sports in this country. He has failed in recent weeks to secure unanimous NGB backing on key procedural issues.
Mankamyer's base of support is the athletes, though she can also reach out to the NGBs because she is, as she proudly says, a "soccer mom" who was long active in the U.S. soccer federation.