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US Olympic Panel OKs Restructuring Plan

From: The Porterville Recorder, CA - Oct 18, 2003


CLEVELAND - The U.S. Olympic Committee got a jump on Congress by approving a wide-reaching reform plan Saturday to drastically change its structure and focus.

All but five of the 110 members of the USOC board of directors at the meeting approved the proposal, which will trim the board from 123 to nine members, eliminate most committees and provide stricter ethics regulations.

Congress is working on its own reform plan, but USOC officials want to start fixing things now because of the internal strife that has plagued the organization for 10 months.

"It was the most important thing we've ever done," said Frank Marshall, co-chair of the panel that recommended the changes. "We realized that we had a problem and it was important for us to show Congress that we're capable and have the courage and wisdom to straighten ourselves out."

The only opposition to the reforms came from representatives from disabled sports and education-based programs. Those groups forwarded amendments asking for representation on the new board, but neither passed.

"This thing was ramrodded through," said Bobbie Beth Scoggins, president of the USA Deaf Sports Federation. "It's almost like they didn't want any opposition."

The USOC's latest in a long line of scandals began this year when chief executive Lloyd Ward was accused of helping his brother's company land Olympic business.

Ward, president Marty Mankamyer and six others resigned.

Congress stepped in next, saying the USOC couldn't function without help. A Senate committee created a commission to look at reorganizing the USOC; its recommendations were the foundation for a bill that recently cleared the Senate.

Another bill probably will make it through the House soon.

But USOC officials plan to have changes in place early next year in an effort to get on track for the 2004 Olympics and make the transition easier once a federal law is passed.

"We have an opportunity to continue shaping our own destiny," USOC president Bill Martin told the board. "The process for approval and implementation of a new federal law has no specific timeline. It could take weeks or months. By acting today, we have the opportunity to have our reforms become the basis for a new federal law."

In fact, USOC leaders think Congress should just scrap its plans and rubber stamp the internal reforms.

The two proposals are very similar and the USOC's version conforms with the international Olympic charter, which the Senate bill does not.

"We feel that our sweeping reforms that we approved today is actually more demanding than some of the reform that is in Congress," Marshall said. "I'm hoping that they look at us and say 'you took this seriously, you did the right thing and we are going to go forward and bless your recommendations.'"

The USOC board passed a resolution Saturday allowing interim CEO Jim Scherr and his senior staff to stay on through the Athens Games.

USOC officials credit Scherr with restoring credibility in the eyes of sponsors and turning around the group's finances.

"I believe this is a path to great progress and revitalization for the Olympic committee and Olympic athletes," said Scherr, who took over after Ward quit in March. "You had the courage to pass the torch to a new leadership. It really is a historic day."

The USOC board also passed a resolution to strip the U.S. Taekwondo Union of its status as the sport's national governing body and to have its membership revoked.

An investigation by the USOC's membership and credentials committee found that the USTU was not in compliance because of financial irregularities and questionable use of funds.

The resolution passed unanimously, but UTSU will still have a chance to state its case before the USOC's executive committee. Should the executive committee uphold the decision, the case will be sent back to the board for a vote.

The USOC also added a new national governing body for the first time since shooting was added in the early 1990s.

The new organization, the U.S. Equestrian Federation, was formed after leaders with the U.S. Equestrian Team and USA Equestrian agreed to join forces.

The Porterville Recorder, 2003.



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