A Committee Divided
The U.S. Olympic Committee ( USOC) rarely lacks for internal squabbling, but the unrest brewing in that organization these days is more serious than usual. A bitterly contested election for president, which took place in Indianapolis on Oct. 26, revealed that the USOC's 105-member board of directors is deeply divided between the traditionalists (those close to the national governing bodies of various amateur sports, or NGBs, particularly of the high-profile sports like basketball) and the athlete-advocates (those who believe that the voices of competitors and low-profile NGBs have not been heard on matters like the distribution of USOC funds and the access to training facilities).
Bill Hybl, 54, the choice of the USOC's nominating committee and a traditionalist, narrowly defeated Michael Lenard, 41, a former Olympic team handball player and the choice of the Athletes' Advisory Committee (AAC). Considering that in the past the nominating committee's choice had always been rubber-stamped—no one had ever even run against the nominee—the degree of dissatisfaction with the USOC seems striking. "I voted against Hybl because he didn't seem to have the athletes at heart," says Mary T. Meagher-Plant, a three-time gold medal swimmer who was on the 1980 and '84 Olympic teams. "If he educates himself on athletes' issues, we can go forward."
Hybl is chairman and CEO of the El Pomar Foundation in Colorado Springs, which has contributed funds to big-name NGBs such as USA Basketball and the Amateur Softball Association. Before the election two members of the AAC, luger Bonny Warner and wrestler Chris Campbell, had charged that those contributions created a conflict of interest for two members of the nominating committee—Warren Brown of USA Basketball and Don Porter of the Amateur Softball Association. Brown and Porter had refused to follow a recommendation from the USOC ethics panel that they resign; this refusal had pushed the AAC to urge Lenard to oppose Hybl.
Lenard says he wants to remain active in the Olympic movement but distrusts Hybl, whom he considers a politician. As for Hybl, his diplomatic and conciliatory skills, which even his opponents praise, will soon be tested.