Olympic Panel May Be Pruned

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An internal task force for the U.S. Olympic Committee proposed dramatic changes Saturday for the scandal-plagued organization, including the elimination of the governing executive committee and all but nine seats on the 123-member board of directors.

The proposals presented to the board, which also include strengthening the office of chief executive, would be the most sweeping in the 25-year history of the organization charged with running America's Olympic program.

"I believe we are being given a historic opportunity to change ourselves, an opportunity to begin the process of regaining the faith and the trust of the American public and the athletes we serve," said vice president Frank Marshall, co-chair of the task force.

The 10-member task force was created in February to streamline the USOC after three months of turmoil drew the ire of Congress.

The USOC's problems became public in December, when then-chief executive Lloyd Ward was accused of a conflict of interest in trying to steer Olympic business to his brother's company. He was reprimanded and resigned under pressure from USOC officials and Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo.

Seven other top USOC officials have resigned, including former president Marty Mankamyer, who was accused of trying to use Ward's ethical lapses to satisfy a vendetta and force him out.

The proposed changes include:

  • Giving the CEO broader powers and holding that person responsible for the organization's success. Power struggles between the CEO and the volunteer president have been common.
  • Eliminating the position of president and creating a chair of the slimmed-down board of directors, whose terms would be limited to six years after a phase-in period.
  • Eliminating the 23-member executive committee, which has vied for control with the board.
  • Rewording the USOC's mission statement to focus on Olympic athletes and winning medals. Committee officials have complained Congress has assigned the USOC tasks that have little to do with the Olympics, such as supporting Little League programs and fighting obesity.
  • Limiting the number of people who can speak to the media to the CEO, another designated person and, in certain cases, the board chair.
The task force also called for a stronger ethics policy and improvements in the USOC's system of identifying potential conflicts of interest.

The task force was to take suggestions from board members on Sunday, then present a final document to a Senate commission also looking at restructuring the organization.

After the Senate commission issues its recommendations in June, the task force will make adjustments and present its final recommendations at a board meeting in September or November.
By John Marshall