With the Summer Olympics in Athens a year away, Congress should move quickly to enact sweeping reforms to restore the faith of athletes and the public in the U.S. Olympic Committee, Sen. John McCain said Tuesday.
McCain, R-Ariz., said he hopes to have legislation reforming the scandal-plagued Olympic committee signed into law by Congress' August recess.
"We need to have a new organization in place to prepare for the upcoming Olympics," said McCain, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which reviewed the suggestions of a Senate-appointed task force during a hearing Tuesday.
Over the past three years, the committee has had four chief executives and three presidents and endured a bribery scandal involving Salt Lake City's efforts to land the 2002 Winter Olympics.
Last winter, long-running political feuds culminated in the ouster of president Marty Mankamyer, accused of working to drive out the committee's chief executive, Lloyd Ward. Ward resigned in March amid accusations that he tried to steer business to his brother's company and reports of lavish spending on parties and travel or USOC leaders.
Frustrated with the scandals, McCain and Sens. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., and Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, appointed a five-member task force to craft ways to solve the problems.
Last week, the task force recommended replacing the cumbersome USOC structure — which has a 124-member board of directors and a 23-member executive committee — with a 13-member board of directors that would run the USOC's day-to-day operations.
With the changes in place, "we believe that the U.S. Olympic Committee can and will begin to earn the respect of the athletes it was created to serve," said Donald Fehr, co-chairman of the task force and head of the Major League Baseball Players Association.
The Senate task force's findings were similar to those of the USOC's own reform panel, which has recommended an 11-member board.
The two groups differed, however, on how athletes' organizations should be represented. McCain asked them to work out a solution within the next few weeks, so his committee could have consensus when the proposed changes go to Congress.
On Monday, Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, sent McCain a letter expressing concerns that the reforms recommended by both the USOC and the Senate task force do not conform with the IOC charter.
The IOC charter requires that a majority of each nation's Olympic Committee consist of athletes and that each nation's representatives on the IOC be represented in their nation's respective Olympic committee. Under the structure proposed by the Senate task force, the three IOC members from the United States would each get one-fourth of a vote, and a representative elected by the athletes assembly would get one-fourth of a vote.
Fehr said he has had discussions with the IOC and believes they are close to a solution that would comply with the IOC charter.