Ethics and the Olympics


Published: Sunday, January 26, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 25, 2003 at 10:03 p.m.
Just how bad are things at the United States Olympic Committee offices? An independent panel will investigate the ethics of the committees' ethics committee.
Marty Mankamyer, USOC president, made that announcement Tuesday. She was prompted to do so by the protest resignations of three members of the ethics committee, who quit after the committee cleared Lloyd Ward, the organization's chief executive, of any wrongdoing and the executive committee approved the committee findings.
Ward had possibly violated ethics codes when he used an staff member of the Olympic committee to help a company, Energy Management Technologies, move forward with its proposal to provide backup power to the Pan American Games for $4.6 million. Ward's brother, Rubert, is an executive with EMT, and it is run by Lorenzo Williams, a childhood friend of the Wards.
Lloyd Ward should have listed his brother's employment with EMT on an annual disclosure list last July, the ethics committee said. And while he had created the "appearance of a conflict of interest," he had done nothing wrong. Ward said he had used poor judgment.
Case closed - for a day or so, anyway. Then came the protest resignations, including that of Patrick Rodgers, the USOC's ethics compliance officer. Rodgers said Ward had clearly violated four of the USOC's ethics provisions.
Mankamyer said members of the proposed investigation panel should all be from outside the Olympic committee and should even investigate her actions. The panel, she said, should answer the following: "Did the ethics committee act appropriately? Did I act appropriately? Did the executive committee act appropriately?"
The idea for the investigation appears to have originated with Anita DeFrantz, a member of the USOC executive committee, who sent e-mails to her fellow committee members. "What we need is sunshine," she told a reporter. In her e-mail, she told her colleagues that an outside inquiry was "the best and probably the only way to heal this organization and resuscitate its good name."
Unfortunately, DeFrantz seems be one of the few executive committee members who understands the situation. The day after the investigation panel announcement, seven members of the USOC's executive committee, called for Mankamyer's resignation. If she didn't resign, they would start the firing process at their executive committee meeting the first weekend in February.
If anyone doubts the USOC has lost touch with reality, that action should remove all doubt.
The USOC is already facing a demand from U.S. senators for a meeting to discuss the unrest. Some senators have said they may have to make changes to the Amateur Sports Act of 1978 to address the USOC's governance problems.
Moreover, the USOC's failure to address ethics and instability in leadership (three presidents and four executive directors in three years) is beginning to threaten its ability to attract sponsors.
In a letter to Ward and Mankamyer obtained by The New York Times, David F. D'Alessandro, chairman of John Hancock Financial Services - a worldwide Olympic sponsor - said it was "no longer possible to overlook the seemingly nonstop turmoil and controversy that afflict your organization."
D'Alessandro told The Times in an interview that the USOC has become "a dysfunctional family that keeps electing the daft cousin or uncle to the top job. Their bureaucracy must be blown up and restructured."
At Xerox, another worldwide sponsor, Terry Dillman, manager of the company's Olympic marketing, said the unrest "causes you pause. At some point, I think sponsors are going to say, If you don't get your act together, we may not be as supportive.' "
In Birmingham, Ala., a family there withdrew an offer to donate a 22-acre Greek-theme park for use as a U.S. Olympic academy. "It's just one ethics problem after another," said family head Jim Inscoe.
The Olympic image has barely recovered from the Salt Lake City bidding scandal, which found more than $1 million in cash and gifts were given to members of the International Olympic Committee to sway them into bringing the 2002 Winter Games to Utah.
Mankamyer is pursuing the right course in trying to bring sunshine to the committee's ethics process. Instead of the board of directors calling for her resignation, it should be the other way around.

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