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olympics

Joyner-Kersee: IOC must clean house

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Posted: Thursday March 04, 1999 11:38 AM

  Jackie Joyner-Kersee says it is the athletes who ultimately will suffer. Tony Duffy/Allsport

WASHINGTON (AP) -- One of track's greatest gold medalists says the worst scandal in Olympic history is like a drug test for the leaders of the games.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, an Olympic champion in the long jump and heptathlon and now a special assistant to the U.S. Olympic Committee, said Wednesday that the bribery case built around Salt Lake's winning bid for the 2002 Winter Games had tarnished the five rings.

"It's tough," she said. "We have to get back to the athletes. They are the ones who are going to suffer, while other people decorate their homes nicely and drive new cars. For athletes, the Olympic rings are a dream. They may have been tarnished, but for the athletes the rings must still shine."

Joyner-Kersee was on hand as the USOC announced a series of reforms aimed at avoiding a recurrence of what president Bill Hybl called the "global crisis" of the Salt Lake City scandal.

"To do any less would mean facing a future that might include the loss of the games and noble ideals they profess," Hybl said.

Hybl said the USOC did not do enough to prevent Salt Lake City bidders from setting up a million-dollar scheme to buy IOC members' votes.

"The oversight was abysmal," he said at a news conference. "We are trying to put in place procedures, policies and individuals who will not allow this to happen again."

Hybl sent President Clinton a letter asking that the International Olympic Committee, at the center of the scandal, be subject to the same law that the federal government uses to deal with corrupt foreign governments.

USOC executive director Dick Schultz said he and Hybl called IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch early Wednesday to tell him about the steps the USOC was taking, including the request to the White House to label the committee a public international organization covered under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

"He was pleased we would call and tell him what we were going to do," Schultz said.

Schultz later called for an outside agency to investigate the IOC.

"They have to do the things they said they were going to do," Schultz said a meeting with editors and reporters of The Washington Post. " ... I would hope they would at least appoint an independent group that would take a look at everything they have been doing and come back to them and suggest changes in the system. I would be satisfied" if they did those things.

Joyner-Kersee said Samaranch should stay in office although "all fingers are pointing back in his direction."

"I do hope the IOC continues to clean its house," she said. "It's just like dealing with drug testing. You're guilty until the results come back clean."

John Naber, a four-time Olympic gold-medal swimmer and now a TV sports commentator and head of a U.S. Olympic alumni association, said anyone who "willfully and intentionally" broke IOC rules "should immediately and forevermore lose the right to make those rules."

Nine IOC members have resigned or been expelled, and at least 19 more remain under investigation.

"Some heads already have rolled, and I'm not sure we're finished yet with the bloodletting," Naber said.

The USOC escaped the brunt of a critical report this week from an independent ethics panel led by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, which said the IOC had fostered a "culture of improper gift giving" that led to the Salt Lake scandal.

But Hybl said the USOC adopted a series of recommendations from the Mitchell report, including an end to overseas assistance programs by bid cities and establishment of a watchdog office for ethics and conflict-of-interest issues.

It went beyond the report by placing a permanent staff member in Salt Lake to deal with Olympic organizers, something Schultz said would be part of the operation for any future U.S. Olympic host city.

The USOC also said that all board of directors and executive committee meetings now would be open, budgets would be quickly available to the public and athletes would receive a bigger voice in decision-making, including a new committee vice-presidency.

Hybl said the scandal "indicates how misplaced the priorities of the Olympic movement have become. Our athletes must always come first."

 
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