KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — U.S. Olympic Committee President Sandra Baldwin acknowledged Thursday discrepancies in the portrayal of her academic background, the most serious the listing of a Ph.D. degree that she does not have. She said she would not rule out resigning.
Baldwin's USOC biography says she graduated from Colorado University in 1962 with an English degree. In fact, she graduated that year from Arizona State. She spent her freshman and sophomore years at Colorado, then moved back to Arizona, where she is from, and finished college at Arizona State.
The bio also says she earned a doctorate in American literature in 1967 from Arizona State. She did not earn the degree, she said Thursday. She said she never completed her dissertation.
"Sometimes we do stupid things and I did something absolutely stupid," Baldwin said in a telephone interview. "Stupid to have ever gotten emotional enough to have ever put that in an old bio and worse yet not to have made sure that when I did run for office it wasn't out of there.
"I certainly didn't do it for financial gain. I didn't do anything to get a job."
She added, "I'm trying today to pray and soul search about what I think is the best thing to do, and I mean [in] a number of avenues for the U.S. Olympic Committee and for me."
The USOC's ruling executive committee hurriedly scheduled a conference call for today. The issue is all but certain to be referred to the USOC's ethics panel. In a letter she sent Thursday on USOC stationery, addressed, "Dear Friends," she asserted, "I do not feel I have hurt the credibility of the USOC. I have certainly hurt my own, and I ask you to carefully consider the best course of action for the organization."
"I support her 110%," said Herb Perez of San Francisco, a member of the executive committee and a 1992 Olympic gold medalist in tae kwon do. "I think she had a lapse in judgment.
"It's terrible. She came clean. She's tremendous for the organization."
But Michael McManus Jr. of Farmingdale, N.Y., an influential public sector member of the USOC, said, "I'm afraid there's an awful lot of precedent that's been established in situations like this recently with regard to academicians and coaches. I think the circumstances are such that what you've accomplished--which for Sandy is considerable--probably doesn't outweigh the issues of credibility and, to some extent, honesty."
He also said he had spoken Thursday to Baldwin: "It's a question in her mind, and some people's minds, as to whether it affects the organization. Given some of the issues with regard to the Olympic movement, and athletes, and issues with regard to drugs and some of the things that happened around [the Winter Games in] Salt Lake--I think we live in an environment where we have to be extremely careful. I suspect that when you look at this and put it all together, it's a great personal tragedy."
McManus added, "The important thing is to treat Sandy fairly but move on fairly quickly."
Baldwin was elected to a four-year term in December 2000, the first woman in more than a century of U.S. Olympic history to become USOC president.
In February, at the Salt Lake City Games, she was made an IOC member by virtue of her status as USOC president. As a sign of her increasing stature within the Olympic movement, and in recognition of her push to expand U.S. influence and extend goodwill, particularly in South and Latin America, she had already been tabbed by IOC President Jacques Rogge to serve on key IOC committees.
In recent months, Baldwin was also named a vice president of the Assn. of National Olympic Committees.
That body, which represents 199 national Olympic committees, is meeting here this week. Baldwin and Lloyd Ward, the USOC's chief executive, left Kuala Lumpur at noon on Wednesday, offering regrets but no explanation.
"When I saw her eyes, tearful, I thought it was something very personal, very strong for her," Mario Vazquez Rana of Mexico, president of the Assn. of National Olympic Committees, said Thursday. "I said, 'Is anything wrong? Is there anything I can help with?' And she said, 'No, it's something that demands my presence.'"
Rogge, notified early today of the discrepancies in Baldwin's biography, declined to comment.
What happens within the USOC is of keen significance to the IOC, for the USOC is without question the most important of the world's 199 Olympic committees.
Most of the IOC's top sponsors are based in the U.S. and the IOC's chief financial underwriter is NBC, which is paying $3.5 billion to televise the Games in the United States from 2000 through 2008.
Based in Colorado Springs, Colo., the USOC--alone among all the national Olympic committees--gets its own cut of NBC's Olympic checks. The USOC's annual budget is about $115 million.
For the first time in two decades, the USOC is facing the challenge of attracting sponsors without the lure of a domestic Games on the horizon.