U.S. Olympic Committee In Turmoil

The U.S. Olympic Committee's infighting has gotten so bad it may take an act of Congress to straighten things out.

If an ethics scandal wasn't enough, top USOC leaders are now revolting against president Marty Mankamyer, charging her with a conspiracy to force CEO Lloyd Ward from his job.

The accusations come as the USOC prepares to go to Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers worried that the Olympic organization is too beset by internal bickering to function properly.

About the only thing all those involved agree on is that it may be time for Congress to make some changes in the legislation that gave the USOC broad powers 25 years ago so it can survive.

"I absolutely agree it is time potentially for some congressional involvement," said Bill Stapleton, a vice president and leader of the move to get rid of Mankamyer. "If we can't do that, I will resign my position for sure."

Mankamyer, while resisting a call from all her five vice presidents on the volunteer board to quit, also wants Congress to step into the dispute. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, who wrote the original legislation, said last week he wanted a meeting with top USOC officials by the end of the month.

"I'll probably leave sooner than most because I'm older, but I think the focus right now should be on the congressional hearing," Mankamyer said.

The turmoil that has consumed the USOC and attracted the attention of Congress escalated once again Tuesday when all five USOC vice presidents and two other top officials said Mankamyer should quit.

Mankamyer said she wouldn't quit and denied charges she tried to orchestrate the removal of Ward, who as the paid CEO runs the day-to-day operations of the USOC.

"It's just a difference in opinion," Mankamyer said late Tuesday. "Some of the things that have been said aren't quite accurate, but that's OK."

Faced with a public revolt in the top ranks of the fractured Olympic organization, though, Mankamyer may find it hard to hang on to the last two years of the term she inherited last year when Sandy Baldwin was forced to resign.

The officials who want Mankamyer out revealed Tuesday that she was privately asked to resign last week and promised that she would. They said, however, that Mankamyer reneged and hasn't returned their phone calls since.

"We believe that president Mankamyer must resign as she promised to do," Stapleton said. "I would ask for her in the interests of America's athletes to resign."

Stapleton was joined by the four other USOC vice presidents and the heads of athlete and sports groups. He said if Mankamyer didn't resign, they would take the matter to an executive board meeting in February or to the entire USOC board in April.

The USOC constitution is vague on removing elected officers, but Stapleton and the others said they were confident they would prevail in any showdown.

"She no longer has the support or necessary leadership skills to effectively guide the USOC," Stapleton said.

Stapleton accused Mankamyer of "attempting to hijack the ethics advisory board in pursuit of her own political gain" in a controversy over conflict-of-interest charges against Ward.

Mankamyer denied that, saying she wasn't trying to get rid of Ward but had some problems with how he has handled his 14 months in the job.

"There are a couple of things that I've been disappointed in, but I'm not trying to get rid of him," she said.

Stapleton and the other officials, though, claimed Mankamyer used the charges that Ward tried to steer business to a company headed by his brother to try to get him fired as CEO. They claimed she and former USOC ethics compliance staffer Pat Rodgers tried to "create a rush to judgment and to create pressure on Mr. Ward in order that he might resign."

Rodgers said any suggestion he was involved in a conspiracy to get rid of Ward was absurd. He said he kept Mankamyer informed of the conflict of interest allegations because that was his job as an ethics compliance officer.

"They have tried to make it seem like I plotted to get rid of Lloyd, but they're giving me a lot more credit than I deserve," Rodgers said. "I couldn't have created this scenario if I wanted to."

Stapleton was joined in calling for the resignation by fellow vice presidents Herman Frazier, Paul George, William Martin and Frank Marshall, along with Rachel Godino, head of the Athlete's Advisory Council, and Robert Marbut, head of the council of Olympic sports organizations.

"We are 100 percent unified, the seven of us," Marbut said.

They essentially blamed Mankamyer for making a bigger issue out of Ward's possible conflict of interest and for making it seem as if Ward's job was in jeopardy because of it.

"It created a conclusion before we had a final opinion of the ethics advisory committee," Stapleton said. "I don't believe every violation of an ethics code would lead you to terminate a corporate officer."

On Jan. 13, the USOC's executive board accepted a report from the ethics committee that said Ward may have made some technical mistakes but wasn't guilty of ethical violations.

After that decision, three members of the ethics committee resigned, as did one executive board member and a USOC staff member who was the ethics liaison for the organization.

Rodgers was accused by the officers of being biased against Ward and not counseling him properly in hopes he would be fired. They claimed Mankamyer worked with Rodgers to "create a rush to judgment and to create pressure on Mr. Ward in order that he might resign."

The USOC has had four CEOs since 2000 and 12 since its inception, and has always been a place where political intrigue and infighting sometimes got in the way of the job of training athletes.

Also on Tuesday a businessman his family had withdrawn an offer to donate a 22-acre Greek-themed park for use as a U.S. Olympic academy because of the ethics problems in the Olympic movement.

Jim Inscoe cited several reasons - including questions surrounding the Salt Lake Olympics and the current ethics scandal - for his family's decision against giving the 22-acre Jasmine Hill Gardens, an area of lush lawns and reproductions of Greek statuary, to the U.S. Olympic Committee.

"Everything that happens with the Olympic Committee has to do with ethics," Inscoe told The Associated Press in an interview. "It's just one ethics problem after another."