US Olympic Committee pressures track federation on reforms
By Bob Baum, AP Sports Writer
The U.S. Olympic Committee is pressuring USA Track & Field to reform its bulky organization and has set a June 24 deadline for the federation to submit a plan.
If the deadline is not met, the USOC has threatened sanctions ranging from cutting off funding - some $2 million this year - to decertification.
The warning was part of a strongly worded letter sent from USOC chief executive officer Jim Scherr to Bill Roe, the USATF’s president and interim executive director.
“The tone of the letter is a reflection of just how seriously we take this,” USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel said in a telephone interview Friday.
The USOC said the federation’s 32-member board of directors should be streamlined with members who are not beholden to specific interests. Currently, each board member represents an area of track and field, such as race walking, men’s track, women’s track, road running, etc.
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The USOC wants the reform proposal to go before the USATF board at the federation’s annual meeting in December.
USA Track & Field spokeswoman Jill Geer said her organization is working on the problem.
“We are going to be responding to the USOC,” she said. “We are actively working on a proposal to restructure the board, and the USOC will be receiving that in advance of their deadline.”
The USOC, which underwent its own reform in 2003-2004, also believes the USATF board is too involved in the day-to-day operations of the executive director and other federation staff members.
USATF has made little progress in replacing Craig Masback, who resigned in January as USATF executive director to take a job with Nike.
“We’re certainly interested in making certain they have a strong, capable CEO in place,” Seibel said. “This is one of the most visible sports and national governing bodies in our Olympic program. The reorganization and reform effort will ultimately lead to an even stronger national governing body, that will in turn strengthen the sport in our country.”
USATF had suggested that the reorganization issue be set aside for a time because the federation is so involved in the Olympic trials and the Beijing Olympics. But U.S. Olympic Committee officials had been discussing reorganization with the track federation “for several years,” Seibel said.
USA Track & Field, a maze of committees and directors who oversee the sport, has a $17 million budget.
“We have had with the USOC a series of meetings and exchanges, both in person meetings and correspondence back and forth, in an effort to come up with a plan that serves the needs of our sport,” Geer said. “Obviously, we have a lot of different constituencies.”
Despite having athletes embroiled in the BALCO steroids scandal, the U.S. track team won 26 medals at last year’s world championships in Osaka, 25 at the 2005 worlds in Helsinki and 25 at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Seibel noted that any funding cuts would not affect money paid by the USOC to track athletes. The USOC also could put the track federation on probation, a move that would serve as a final warning before decertification.
Decertification would be a last resort. If that happened, the USOC would take over track and field until a new federation could be formed. Decertification is rare, but it has occurred in modern pentathlon, team handball and taekwondo.
The Associated Press