ASCA Director John Leonard Asks New USOC Prez to Act on Vital Issues -- August 21, 2002
FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida, August 21. JOHN Leonard, the Executive Director of the American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA) has sent a letter to Marty Mankamyer, newly-elected president of the United States olympic Committee (USOC), asking her to focus the USOC's attention on two pressing issues where immediate USOC leadership is needed: the unintended consequences of Title IX and Anti-Doping.
The previous USOC president, Sandra Baldwin, who resigned in May, showed no inclination to tackle these two vital issues.
Leonard began his letter by congratulating Mankamyer on her election and her "willingness to serve our athletes." After reminding her that swimming has been the most successful sport in American Olympic history, he offered "a suggestion to you and to everyone working at the USOC either as a volunteer or as paid staff.
Leonard wrote: "As you well know, staff and volunteer turnover, the scandal and the focus on the machinations of the political process all have combined to damage the reputation and effectiveness of the USOC. The many changes in leadership leads to a lack of focus and direction as well as a declining climate for sponsor confidence. The net result is increasing fund raising difficulties.
"The USOC has been ar too centered on looking inward, for far too long. This introspection makes the organization increasingly irrelevant to the NGBs that it is supposed to serve, the athletes it is intended to serve, and the general public whom it must interest in Olympic Sport."
When an organization focuses inwardly, it tends to worry about governance and how it will handle its work. Such organizations usually are on the fast track to irrelevance.
"It is time to right the ship," Leonazrd stated, recommending that the USOC look outward.
"Look to what the USOC can do to improve sport in the USA," he suggested. "Focus on key issues of importance to the general public.
"The two most critical issues where immediate USOC leadership is needed are: the unintended consequences of Title IX and Anti-Doping.
While Swimming World, SwimInfo, ASCA and, most recently, USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus have been leading these fights in the sport of swimming, and other advocates have arisen in other sports--particularly wrestling and gymnastics, the silence from the USOC has been deafening.
"There is an immediate need," Leonard wrote, "for USOC action on the issue of Title IX, and a forceful statement and lobbying effort to get the OCR to provide fair treatment for male as well as female athletes. You sat in a conference in Indianapolis where Mr. Ward pledged attention and action. Where is that action?
"On the doping front, the inexplicable continuation of Donald Fehr on the USOC Board of Directors as a public sector representative is anathema to the USOC Anti-Doping efforts and continues to give the USA an international 'black eye.' This is a man who is NOT standing up front and center for drug testing with the potential Olympic athletes he represents. How can he serve on the USOC Board and not support USADA testing for potential Olympic Athletes? Our entire sport system’s continuation depends on the reality and perception of clean sport. And Mr. Fehr is waffling on this issue. He cannot continue in both roles."
Leonard concluded: "We respectfully request that the USOC focus on the most important issues that affect American athletes. In so doing ... the USOC will once again become an organization we can all point to with pride.
"America needs your strong leadership to create action on these critical issues," Leonard concluded.