Angeles, March 10, 1999|
Vol. 11, No.1
The pot calls the kettle black . . . As the
Olympic bribery scandal has widened, former U.S. Olympic Committee
President and International Olympic Committee member Robert H. Helmick
has been a highly visible media presence, criticizing IOC ethics,
recommending reform and calling for the resignations of the IOC
president and executive board. The irony, of course, is that Helmick
himself resigned from both the US presidency and the IOC in 1991
amid charges of wrongdoing. A further irony is that some
reporters who so diligently pursue every nuance of the current scandal
seem to accept unquestioningly Helmick's claim that he was "exonerated"
of the 1991 charges. See most notably, for example, Time
(January 25) and "60 Minutes" (January 24).
before the Salt Lake City story broke, Helmick floated the notion that he had
been cleared of the charges against him. As SportsLetter reported in March 1998,
Helmick argued that sympathetic news stories following his resignation and the
USOC's failure to "accept" its special counsel's report on Helmick amounted
to exoneration. Given Helmick's recent emergence as an Olympic ethicist, the whole
affair deserves further review.
The USOC, on September
10, 1991, appointed a special counsel, Arnold Burns, to investigate press reports
that Helmick had engaged in activities alledged to be conflicts of interest. Eight
days later, Helmick resigned as USOC president. Burns delivered his report to
the USOC executive committee on November 23. The next day the USOC presented the
findings at a press conference and distributed copies of the report to reporters
in attendance. The report stated that "Helmick repeatedly violated
the conflict of interest provisions of the USOC By-Laws, as well as the Statement
of Principles, by virtue of his paid representation of clients having business
with the USOC and that he did so without adequate disclosure or in several
cases without any disclosure." The special counsel concluded that
Helmick violated the USOC Statement of Principles on eight points, including "failing
to subordinate his individual interests to the interests of the Olympic Movement"
and "failing to serve without personal gain." Included among the ethical
violations were: "participating in a license agreement between the USOC and
a client while having a financial interest; taking payment from a major equipment
manufacturer of a sport hoping to gain a place on the Olympic Programme; accepting
payments from the United States Golf Federation in its attempts to be recognized
as the national governing body for the sport of golf, and acting as a paid representative
for Turner Sports in USOC-related matters. "
The USOC chapter of the story concluded on November
24 when the USOC executive committee "concluded that as Mr.
Helmick had resigned as president and the Special Counsel found
that no USOC contracts had been improperly influenced, the USOC
inquiry into Mr. Helmicks contract should be concluded."
In other words, Helmick's resignation made further action
on his misconduct as USOC president unnecessary. Some exoneration.
despite the fact that "Helmick repeatedly violated the conflict of interest
provisions of the USOC By-Laws," he still serves as a member of the USOC
board of directors. A provision of the USOC constitution allows all past presidents
to serve on the organizations board of directors.
The IOC also investigated Helmick's conduct,
appointing an inquiry committee under the direction of IOC member
Judge Kéba Mbaye, of Senegal. Helmick resigned from the IOC on December
3, 1991, one day before the IOC executive board was scheduled to
discuss the inquirys findings. If, as expected, the executive
board had moved to expel Helmick, he would have had the chance to
defend himself before the entire IOC Session the following February.
Instead, he chose to resign his position as IOC member. Once again,
Helmick tendered his resignation before any decision could be reached.
The Report of the Special
Bid Oversight Commission, commissioned by the USOC and headed by former U.S. Senator
George Mitchell, released its report on the Salt Lake City bid process March 1.
The report makes several recommendations on restructuring the IOC, including one
stating that a "substantial majority of IOC members should be elected by"
the various national Olympic committees, international sport federations and other
"constituent organizations." The New York Times, in a March 3
editorial, endorsed the proposal. We do not know whether this idea really comes
from the senator or the USOC itself, but anyone who thinks that greater NOC involvement
will ensure honesty in Olympic affairs is seriously deluded. National
Olympic Committees, in fact, have produced almost all of the IOC members involved
in the present scandal. The IOC, on January 24, 1999, recommended the expulsion
of six members for corruption. Every one of them was, at the time or in the past,
the president of his NOC. Three other IOC members named January 24 as requiring
further investigation also were former NOC presidents. Two other IOC members who
resigned as a result of their involvement in the Salt Lake City scandal, Bashir
Mohamed Attarbulsi, of Libya; and David Sibandze, of Swaziland, served as their
NOC presidents for a total of 26 years. And, of course, before Salt Lake City,
there was the USOCs very own Robert Helmick. Great idea guys.
a guy have to do? . . . World champion sprinter Maurice Greene recently was the
subject of a Los Angeles Times article by J.A. Adande decrying the lack
of recognition that the worlds fastest man gets in the United States. The
Times article made its point in more ways than one. Accompanying the article
was a photograph purportedly showing Greene in fine racing form. In fact, the
photo showed Greenes training mate, Jon Drummond. The Times printed
a correction a few days later.
Spin move . . . The NBA's new collective bargaining
agreement adds marijuana, some hard drugs and illegal steroids to
the leagues list of prohibited substances. The new
policy, in reality, does not pose a major threat to would-be potheads
and steroid abusers. NBA veterans must undergo only a single
pre-announced, pre-season drug test. A more stringent policy applies
to rookies, who are subject to four random tests during the season.
Since almost every expert agrees that unannounced random testing,
including out-of-season testing, offers the only hope of effectively
policing drug use in sport, do not expect to see many abusers caught.
NBA . . . Those few NBA players who do get snagged in the leagues drug dragnet
will not pay much of a price. The penalty for a first offense for marijuana requires
the offender to enter an anti-drug counseling program. A second offense brings
a $15,000 fine and the program. A third strike results in more program participation
and a five-game suspension without pay.
for steroid use are a bit stiffer. In addition to the anti-drug counseling program,
a positive test for steroids will get a player suspended for five games for a
first offense; 10 games for a second, and 25 for a third. This is a slap
on the wrist compared to the two-year ban called for by the International Basketball
Federation (FIBA) and almost all other Olympic sport federations.
is unclear how a positive NBA drug test would affect a players eligibility
in international competition. According to Caroline Williams, assistant
director of media/public relations for USA Basketball, differences between NBA
and USA Basketball testing protocols and lab requirements mean that a positive
test by the NBA has no repercussions as far as USA Basketball is concerned. Thats
not necessarily the case with the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).
FIBAs Doping Control Regulations give the federation the right
to impose penalties against players "found guilty of doping during doping
control tests conducted under the control of organisations outside FIBA."
they get residuals on syndication? . . . Sometimes fact follows fiction. The ABC
television sitcom "Coach" depicted the comic mishaps of Hayden Fox,
the head football coach of the Screaming Eagles of fictitious Minnesota State.
Though the show no longer exists, Minnesota State now does. On September 18, 1998,
the Minnesota State College and University Board of Trustees renamed the school
formerly known as Mankato State University as Minnesota State University, Mankato.
No word on whether Coach Fox will be coaching.
in from Nepal . . . We all know that the Super Bowl is the biggest media event
in the United States. The NFL says that the game also is very popular
worldwide, drawing an estimated 800 million viewers. That figure equates to roughly
one of every seven people on the planet. SportsLetter is skeptical.
According to the NFL, the U.S. provides about 130 million viewers. That means
that 670 million people in other countries would have to tune in. Given that the
game begins after midnight in most of Europe and Africa, and that most of Asia
is beginning its Monday morning workday at kick-off time, this seems like a bit
of a stretch. For its part, the NFL acknowledges the international audience is
a loose estimate based on figures supplied by foreign terrestrial broadcasters
and international satellite and cable systems. Pete Abitante, the NFLs director
of international public affairs, admits the difficulty of measuring the international
audience accurately without any reliable hard ratings. When asked by SportsLetter
if the figure of 800 million is accurate to within 25 or even 100 million, Abitante
said he would be comfortable with either margin of error as long as the total
audience is considered "an estimate."
USA -- Since 1986, four Michigan universities have won a total of seven
NCAA Division I men's hockey championships. Lake Superior State University,
a 3,500-student school in Sault Sainte Marie, has won the title three times. The
University of Michigan has captured the crown twice since '86. Michigan State
and Northern Michigan have each won one title during the period. What
is more, at least one Michigan school has made it to the Final Four in 12 of the
last 13 tourneys.
Add hockey . . . Michigan
college teams do not lack for fans. A crowd of 19,983 turned out February 20 at
Detroits Joe Louis arena to see Michigan State defeat cross-state rival
and defending NCAA champion Michigan, 3-1, as the Spartans won their second consecutive
And, you thought the ABA was
crazy? . . . With the start of the Major League Soccer just around the corner,
we thought it would be worthwhile to reflect on the departed, but not forgotten,
Los Angeles Aztecs of the North American Soccer League.
changes everything . . . SportsLetter reported in October 1994 that Canadian
skier Melanie Turgeon, winner of five medals at the 1997 World Junior Championships,
had put together a $1.5 million (Canadian) support package that included her very
own two-person coaching staff to advance her career. Things have not exactly worked
out according to plan. Plagued by injuries, Turgeon finished 82nd in
the 1994 overall World Cup standings, 74th the following year, and
did not compete on the World Cup circuit in 1996. She described the decision to
train apart from the national team as the "worst thing," and resumed
training with the Canadian team in 1997. Turgeon has not repeated her
spectacular junior results, but did finish a respectable 20th in the
Super G at the Nagano Olympic Winter Games and a strong seventh in the downhill
at the recent world championships in Vail, Colorado.
the urban myth department . . . Discussions of why athletes take performance-enhancing
drugs often refer to the "Goldman Survey" that claims over 50% of top
athletes would willingly take a drug one time that would enable them to win every
competition entered during a five-year period, even if they knew the drug would
kill them at the end of that period. Osteopath Dr. Bob Goldman first
reported this finding in his 1992 book Death in the Locker Room, II. He
interviewed 198 elite athletes, with 103 (52%) saying that they would take such
a drug. Goldman claims to have repeated the survey several times since then with
smaller sample groups, achieving similar results.
The problem with Goldman's claim is that the
survey is merely anecdotal and is not based upon accepted statistical
sampling. Goldman freely admitted to SportsLetter that the
survey results are culled from his own informal questioning of athletes
with whom he comes in contact. The survey never has been
submitted to a peer review and never has been published. All of
this casts doubt on the value of Goldman's findings. Other investigators
of steroid abuse strongly question Goldman's claims. Dr.
Charles Yesalis, a noted expert on anabolic steroid use at Penn
State University, has found that less than 25% of both adolescents
and elite powerlifters say they would take anabolic steroids if
it was proven that steroid use would lead to heart disease, liver
cancer, or sterility much less guaranteed death. Moreover,
Yesalis says that in his own face-to-face discussions with more
than 1,000 admitted steroid users over the years, only a small fraction
of them said they would use steroids no matter what the consequences.
up! . . . The NCAA, in 1994, created a category called "emerging sports."
Sports in this category are recognized by the NCAA as providing athletic opportunities
for women, thereby making it easier for some schools to comply with Title IX.
There are no NCAA championships in emerging sports, but an emerging sport may
evolve into a full-fledged championship sport, as was the case with women's rowing,
which held its first NCAA championship in 1997. According to the NCAA
News (February 15), the sport of equestrian may be headed for recognition
as the newest emerging sport. Other sports in the category include: ice
hockey (40 institutions), water polo (37), squash (27), bowling (21), synchronize
swimming (8), badminton (3), archery (2) and team handball (0). Team handball
appears not to be emerging too quickly.
you were out on the slopes? Meet Dusty, the golden eagle mascot of the 1999 World
Alpine Ski Championships held February 2-14 at Vail/Beaver Creek, Colorado.
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