Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Olympic Committee leaders revolts against president



By Tim Dahlberg
The Associated Press

The top leadership of the U.S. Olympic Committee urged USOC president Marty Mankamyer to resign Tuesday, blaming her for infighting within the organization and claiming she conspired with a staff member to try and force CEO Lloyd Ward from his job.

The turmoil that has consumed the USOC and attracted the attention of Congress escalated once again when all five USOC vice presidents and two other top officials said Mankamyer should quit.

Mankamyer said she would not step down and called on her fellow elected USOC officials to focus instead on a congressional probe into the USOC and not her leadership.

"It's just a difference in opinion,' Mankamyer said late Tuesday. "Some of the things that have been said aren't quite accurate, but that's OK."

Faced with a public revolt in the top ranks of the fractured Olympic organization, though, Mankamyer may find it hard to hang on to the last two years of the term she inherited last year when Sandy Baldwin was forced to resign.

The officials who want Mankamyer out revealed Tuesday that she was privately asked to resign last week and promised that she would. They said, however, that Mankamyer reneged and hasn't returned their phone calls since.

"We believe that president Mankamyer must resign as she promised to do," vice president Bill Stapleton said. "I would ask for her in the interests of America's athletes to resign."

Stapleton was joined by the four other USOC vice presidents and the heads of athlete and sports groups. He said if Mankamyer didn't resign, they would take the matter to an executive board meeting in February or to the entire USOC board in April.

The USOC constitution is vague on removing elected officers, but Stapleton and the others said they were confident they would prevail in any showdown.

"She no longer has the support or necessary leadership skills to effectively guide the USOC," Stapleton said.

Stapleton accused Mankamyer of "attempting to hijack the ethics advisory board in pursuit of her own political gain" in a controversy over conflict-of-interest charges against Ward.

Mankamyer denied that, saying she wasn't trying to get rid of Ward but had some problems with how he has handled his 14 months in the job.

"There are a couple of things that I've been disappointed in, but I'm not trying to get rid of him," she said.

Stapleton and the other officials, though, claimed Mankamyer used the charges that Ward tried to steer business to a company headed by his brother to try to get him fired as CEO. They claimed she and former USOC ethics compliance staffer Pat Rodgers tried to "create a rush to judgment and to create pressure on Mr. Ward in order that he might resign."

Rodgers said any suggestion he was involved in a conspiracy to get rid of Ward was absurd. He said he kept Mankamyer informed of the conflict of interest allegations because that was his job as an ethics compliance officer.

"They have tried to make it seem like I plotted to get rid of Lloyd, but they're giving me a lot more credit than I deserve," Rodgers said. "I couldn't have created this scenario if I wanted to."

Stapleton was joined in calling for the resignation by fellow vice presidents Herman Frazier, Paul George, William Martin and Frank Marshall, along with Rachel Godino, head of the Athlete's Advisory Council, and Robert Marbut, head of the council of Olympic sports organizations.

"We are 100 percent unified, the seven of us," Marbut said.

The rebellion within the top elected ranks of the USOC apparently had been brewing for some time, but a conference call held Tuesday by the seven officers was the first public indication of just how bad the split was. Mankamyer took over last year when Sandy Baldwin resigned after admitting she lied about her academic credentials.

They essentially blamed Mankamyer for making a bigger issue out of Ward's possible conflict of interest and for making it seem as if Ward's job was in jeopardy because of it.

"It created a conclusion before we had a final opinion of the ethics advisory committee," Stapleton said. "I don't believe every violation of an ethics code would lead you to terminate a corporate officer."

On Jan. 13, the USOC's executive board accepted a report from the ethics committee that said Ward may have made some technical mistakes but wasn't guilty of ethical violations.

After that decision, three members of the ethics committee resigned, as did one executive board member and a USOC staff member who was the ethics liaison for the organization.

Rodgers was accused by the officers of being biased against Ward and not counseling him properly in hopes he would be fired.

Stapleton said that the night before the executive board meeting he and other officers had asked Mankamyer to resign and she agreed to do so. He said she told him she would resign later in the week, but never did.

"I have two calls into Marty that have not been returned," he said. "She is not communicating with her officers."

If Mankamyer does not resign, Stapleton said he intends to raise the issue at a Feb. 8 executive committee meeting. The entire 125-member board of directors is not scheduled to meet until April, but Stapleton said he might call a special meeting.

The latest infighting prompted Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, the architect of the 1978 legislation that gave the USOC control over America's Olympic program, to call USOC leaders to Washington later this month to discuss possible changes in the structure of the organization.

It also apparently prompted an Alabama businessman's family to withdraw an offer to donate a 22-acre Greek-themed park for use as a U.S. Olympic academy. Top USOC officials went the park last year for a tour, but Jim Inscoe said the USOC later stopped returning phone calls.

The family still may be willing to make the donation if the USOC is improved, Inscoe said.

"If they straighten up their problems and come back to us I'm not saying the door is locked," he said.

The USOC has had four CEOs since 2000 and 12 since its inception, and has always been a place where political intrigue and infighting sometimes got in the way of the job of training athletes.




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