Posted: Thursday February 23, 2006 11:23AM; Updated: Thursday February 23, 2006 1:25PM
SI.com: What is the impending agreement you have with the Chinese?
Scherr: Generally, they are perfunctory agreements that pledge cooperation and mutual understanding. There will be some specific training opportunities back and forth. It's really not a major, specific agreement.
SI.com: Will there be some dual meets in various sports in advance of Beijing?
Scherr: We would love to do that. Obviously the Pacific Rim competitions that we had planned did not come off. The Chinese did not want the focus of those competitions to be U.S. vs. China, but we think there is great value from both a competitive and promotional standpoint to have dual meets in some sports or competitions with other countries including the Chinese.
SI.com: What about Shani Davis' decision not to skate the pursuit?
Scherr: I think they had an opportunity to medal whether or not Shani skated with them. Clearly he's one of the best in the world at that distance and could have helped the team, but he chose not to and you can't second-guess his decision. I think people would have if he had not medaled. He is the only one who knows his body and how he can prepare. Shani's had some difficulties in his relationship with his teammates and with the federation. But I was at the Walter Payton School a couple of months ago in Chicago and watched him interact with the kids there. They had an incredible connection with him. I think as an Olympic champion, he's a great athlete and he can make a great contribution to the Olympic movement and to his own community. So we're very proud of what he's done, and I wouldn't second-guess his decision not to skate with the team.
SI.com: Is losing an IOC spot in this round of voting going to hurt the U.S. Olympic movement?
Scherr: Clearly our position has been eroded in the IOC. It wasn't in the past year or two; it really has been a 15-to-20-year process. It will be another five, 10 years before we're able to effectively change that. It's going to take a long-term effort, with resources behind it, to change the position we have currently. But to not have an executive board member and to not have more IOC members effectively positioned within the Olympic family and not have more influential interests in the international federations themselves has clearly hurt the U.S.
SI.com: You were outspoken in the harassment controversy surrounding former U.S. skeleton coach Tim Nardiello, not only his conduct but the way the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation handled the situation. Can you elaborate on that?
Scherr: We were very clear that we did not find it appropriate to approve his selection to coach the team in this environment. We're not second-guessing that decision. We think the federation could have been more proactive earlier in addressing some of the issues they faced in terms of their coaching staff and how they were preparing their athletes, but also how they're executing their business as an organization, how their board governs the sport and how their leadership interacts with the board and their basic business operations. Many of our federations face significant challenges, but this is a case where we want to come in and help the federation. We don't want to just be critical of what they do. We are conducting an audit. We will sit down with them and address a number of concerns we have, and hopefully they'll take those concerns seriously and make some adjustments in their organization.
SI.com: Is there enough of a vehicle now for athletes who have sacrificed for their sports and are now entering the workforce, in some cases 10 years behind their fellow prospective employees?
Scherr: No, there isn't, and we're addressing that with a program, partnering with Adecco and other Olympic committees around the world to help athletes with their career transition. We work with athletes in our athlete services division to help them make that transition. But we have to do a better job of helping athletes while they're competing to prepare for their career later. We'd like to do it in sports management or whatever other line of work they choose, because they do sacrifice an incredible amount of time that leaves them behind their peer group. The commitment to the Olympic Games is not something you do for a summer or two after you graduate college or finish when you're 22 or 23. It's a responsibility we have and we need to do a better job with it.