Perhaps this was a mission impossible to start with. But Marc Hodler can be a very wise man and when he made his case to Brundage, he presented it with aplomb, logic, even eloquence: "My policy to the committee was that skiing has time limits like no other sport," recalled Hodler. "Boys must leave home for 10 months a year, they must seek snow to train and they must buy high-priced equipment. They need time to excel, and I told Avery Brundage that we must have this point recognized and that the boys must be compensated for their time. I told Avery that a boy must be compensated for losing his career. While he trains and races, others of his age move ahead of him. But it is not like running track; a skier cannot work in an office by day and train after hours.
"I also tried to explain to Avery that the commercial interests are the reason skiing has so many problems. No other sport in the world has grown so fast; we have a civilization of millions who ski. No other sport in the world—not even yachting or golf—has so much money spent on it. I told Avery, 'Your theory of a sport is 100,000 people looking at an event in a stadium and the only ones running are 22 men and some referees and no one in the stadium is interested in doing anything but watching the game. They do not want to pay money to play the game, only to watch.' Our trouble, I told Avery, is that so many millions practice our sport and it is a massive industry now and the temptations for manufacturers are extreme. And I told Avery that if we could control the manufacturers' temptations by having them go legally through our national federations, we might do away with much of the hypocrisy that has plagued us. 1 told him that, with the federations' contracts, the manufacturers would feel secure that the boys would not run out on using their equipment. And if they felt secure, they would stop spending all Sundays and Mondays after the races in pure bribery to guarantee that they would keep their racers on their products."
Avery Brundage was not greatly moved by either the truth or the beauty of Marc Hodler's plea. However, Brundage did not immediately declare in Hodler's hearing that the entire statement was utterly heretical. Instead he harrumphed a bit. Thus was born the wishful delusion that perhaps Brundage had agreed.
And thus it was that the USSA, in good faith and only after ponderous huffing and puffing about the propriety of it all, went ahead and approved the contracts for Kashiwa and Chaffee. The organization had somehow convinced itself that the FIS ruling had really passed the IOC test for amateurism—although it failed to take the simple precaution of phoning the USOC and asking. Ironically, the Chaffee contract with A&T Ski Co., manufacturer of the K-2 Skis, provided $2,000 plus research facilities that would lead to Chaffee's master's degree thesis. The other was a $5,000 deal between Kashiwa and Head Ski Co. with no visible strings attached: Kashiwa was not required to race on Head Skis, only to test them.
But one should not bet against the Victorian instincts rampant among Olympic officials. Word of the contracts last October was passed to Arthur Lentz, executive director of the Olympic Committee. Lentz went to Brundage to ask if there had been some misunderstanding—could these contracts in any way meet the Olympic eligibility rules? Of course not, replied Brundage, and he fired off a doughty directive saying that in no way had there been any change in the standards of Olympian amateurism.
So Lentz had the word straight from the source and his course was clear: "Hank Kashiwa and Rick Chaffee are ineligible for the 1972 Olympics at this moment. We are proceeding under strict interpretations of the IOC eligibility rules. We will not equivocate. We cannot do it for skiing or we will have to do it for all sports. I'm sorry. It is unfortunate about Kashiwa and Chaffee. I have other names, too, of American skiers who will have to be thoroughly investigated before I will sign to certify their Olympic eligibility. I certainly will not perjure myself. These are the rules and if no one—Mr. Hodler or Mr. Walters [Earl Walters, president of the USSA]—made any attempt to get things clear before this happened, that is really too bad."
The USSA reaction to this decision also was too bad. Predictably panicky and resolutely unrealistic, the association promptly stuck its head into the snow last fall and now refuses to even discuss any contracts with U.S. team members. It has been reported that several pending contracts have now disappeared from the USSA files in Denver. And what has been the result of it all? Are U.S. ski racers now clean of manufacturers' cash and shorn of illicit income?
"Hell, no," says Bob Lange, the outspoken president of the super-booming Lange Co. of Broomfield, Colo. "The only skiers on the whole FIS circuit that I have to pay under the table are Americans. They deserve the dough as much as anyone else but, by God, the only way to pay them is on the sly. Talk about hypocrisy."
Lange, incidentally, is that rarest of birds among ski equipment manufacturers—a man willing to freely discuss the shadowy details of paying amateurs. Effusive and ambitious, Lange, 42, has a restless, dashing mien that falls just short of an Errol Flynn swashbuckle. A nouveau millionaire as a result of the wild success of his plastic boot, he is currently deeply involved in a professional skiing circuit, having contributed $50,000 for prize money in a race at Vail this month. Even if his experiences are not perfectly typical of the chaotic milieu in ski racing today, they offer a fascinating insight into the realities of it all:
"During the 1968 Olympics I was paying no one at all. And there were maybe 50% of the kids on my boot. Karl Schranz came on for nothing—not one farthing—he just came and asked to use the boot. We said no pay and he said he had to have it even though it meant sending several thousand dollars back to another ski boot company to get out of his contract. Until this season I never had to pay anyone to use my boot. Well, I did give Nancy Greene a $1,000 bonus after the World Cup in 1968. 1 don't think I ever paid anyone before that. But in the last couple of years everyone started paying so damned much that I started losing racers and I had no choice but to get in and compete with a bankroll.