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Kenny Moore
August 29, 1988
Anita DeFrantz is an unlikely member of the powerful IOC
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August 29, 1988

An Advocate For Athletes

Anita DeFrantz is an unlikely member of the powerful IOC

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The next year, after Ueberroth's cost containments had produced a $230 million profit—$93 million of which was earmarked for sports in Southern California—the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles was established. In June 1987, DeFrantz became its president. She continues to administer $22 million in grants and programs the foundation has established.

DeFrantz had been an administrator in amateur sports for nearly a decade when, in 1986, the IOC was looking to fill a vacancy created by the death of Julian K. Roosevelt, one of its two U.S. representatives. In the IOC's lordly scheme of things, the USOC doesn't elect its own representatives; it submits names from which, it hopes, the IOC might select. The USOC's list consisted of Ueberroth, former swimmer and TV broadcaster Donna de Varona, USOC vice-presidents Evie Dennis and William Tutt, the late swimming official Harold Henning and DeFrantz.

Ueberroth had support, but he was probably rejected because of the tone of his autobiography. Made in America, in which he detailed his battles with IOC officials. De Varona, who won two golds in the 1964 Olympics, has labored a lifetime in the trenches of sports politics. "But her profession was the stumbling block," says DeFrantz, implying that few seats of power will welcome a reporter into their secret councils. DeFrantz, however, had been given the Olympic Order award by the IOC after her campaign against the Carter boycott. She was clearly a woman who would be an envoy from the Olympic empyrean to the U.S. chapter. She was in.

There are 92 members of the IOC. "There are captains of industry, royalty, government officials and people connected with their predecessors," DeFrantz says. "They aren't generally people with an intimate knowledge of sport. They come with different portfolios, but their mission becomes the same, to see that the Games survive and flourish."

One naturally wonders whether an impatient athletes' rights activist can fit in. "The IOC moves very slowly," she says, "by design. You have to put in time to earn the confidence of the members if you're going to have lasting influence. And I think that is..."—her expression acknowledges that 10 years ago she might not have said this—" it should be. This is an institution that is, if you will, eternal."

DeFrantz's office at the Amateur Athletic Foundation is in a redbrick, Corinthian-pillared mansion near downtown Los Angeles. It is a place of sufficient weight for even the most traditional IOC member. But follow DeFrantz home to her gray-and-white cottage in Santa Monica. Help her paint the tool shed; do not step on her newly planted lawn. Here, she seems far removed from that aristocracy she has somehow crashed. "Life is good," she says. "I love what I'm doing. It's rare at my age to know I'll be in this for so long."

Besides her position as president of the Amateur Athletic Foundation, DeFrantz retains her USOC posts. Much of that $230 million war chest left from the L.A. Olympics is administered by the U.S. Olympic Foundation. DeFrantz is on its board. "Right now," she says, "the USOC writes checks to the national governing bodies [of individual sports]. And those national governing bodies spend the money without a great deal of accountability."

DeFrantz has helped urge four-year plans on the NGBs. "It was hard for many of them to think about development involving more than just getting the team to the Games. Our most desperate need in this nation is to have some coaching standards. Anyone can coach here. We have nothing like other nations' schools for training and certifying coaches."

DeFrantz argues for an American blend of school, community, corporate, foundation and Olympic Committee effort. "The problem we've often had in sports is that everyone wants it run his way," she says. "We need a more pluralistic society in sport."

Her conviction is never more absolute than on the question of South Africa. DeFrantz has moved repeatedly that the U.S. Olympic Foundation rid itself of investments in companies doing business in that country. "I believe that apartheid is so horrible a blight that we are, each one of us, forced to be a part of the problem or a part of the solution," she says. "You either accept and cooperate with a government that has this evil contempt for its own citizens, or you say, "No, you must be isolated.' "

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