With less than a week until the U.S. skeleton team begins its final round of preparations for the Turin Olympics, its coach was put on administrative leave Saturday amid allegations he sexually harassed at least two female athletes.
The decision whether Tim Nardiello will coach the Olympic team now rests, in part, with a three-person grievance committee formed by the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation. The committee will open its hearing Monday and could make a recommendation to the federation's board members by week's end.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Olympic Committee will conduct a separate investigation. Spokesman Darryl Seibel said the USOC has begun contacting athletes to schedule interviews for next week. The USOC has final say in approving coaches and athletes who make up the U.S. Olympic delegation.
The timing of the investigations are crucial, because the team leaves for Europe next week and will not return until after the Turin Games. If a pre-Olympics coaching change is made, it probably will happen before that trip begins.
"Everyone is entitled to a fair hearing," said Dan Goodwin, vice president of the federation's board and its legal counsel. "It'll be a thorough process."
The two athletes -- 2002 Olympic gold medalist Tristan Gale and longtime slider Felicia Canfield -- claim Nardiello has made sexual advances and explicit comments toward female racers, Goodwin said. Nardiello, a two-time luge Olympian and married father of three who has denied the allegations, did not return calls from the Associated Press seeking comment. The allegations were first reported in Saturday's editions of the New York Times.
Ice dancing champion Tanith Belbin can celebrate the new year as an American.
Belbin, who was born in Canada, was sworn in Saturday at the U.S. citizenship and immigration services office in Detroit, one day after President Bush signed an appropriations bill speeding up the naturalization process.
Belbin is now eligible for the Turin Olympics, where she and partner Ben Agosto will be favorites to win the U.S.'s first ice dance medal since 1976.
England's Owen Out Up to 10 Weeks
England striker Michael Owen will be sidelined up to 10 weeks after breaking his foot while playing for Newcastle at Tottenham.
Newcastle Coach Alan Murray said Owen would sit out at least eight weeks. Asked if the injury might threaten his playing at the World Cup in June, Owen said: "Not from what all the experts are telling me."
Nebraska Official Needed Protection
Nebraska Athletic Director Steve Pederson was guarded by a state trooper during a football game last month after investigators determined a credible threat had been made against his family.
The decision to protect Pederson for the Nov. 12 game against Kansas State, first reported by the Omaha World-Herald, apparently stemmed from a Nov. 9 column written by 23-year-old Ben Schwartz that appeared in the North Platte Bulletin, a weekly newspaper published in Pederson's hometown.
"Tell me it's wrong to call up Steve Pederson's house at 3 in the morning, breathe heavily into the phone and then whisper, 'I'm going to kill your children,' " Schwartz wrote after Nebraska lost its third straight, 40-15, to Kansas.
"I don't think they thought I was a threat to Steve Pederson," said Schwartz, who is now attending radio broadcasting school in Minnesota. "They thought someone would read my column and be inspired to hurt his kids."
Schwartz, who called his column "completely inappropriate," wrote a follow-up the next week apologizing for his comments.
Martina Hingis' return to competitive tennis will come Monday against Maria Vento-Kabchi of Venezuela at the Australian Women's Hardcourt Championships at Gold Coast.
Catello Manzi became the oldest harness driver to lead North America in victories. Manzi, 55, finished the year with 727 wins, outdistancing Tony Morgan, who started the day with 700.
Cam Barker, Dustin Boyd and Kyle Chipchura scored to help Canada secure a spot in the world junior hockey semifinals with a 3-2 victory over the U.S. at Vancouver, Canada.