Senators Reach Compromise on USOC Reform Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 18. SENATOR Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.) agreed yesterday to release his hold on the Senate's U.S. Olympic Committee Reform Act, ending a two-month standoff that threatened to delay for as long as two years a drastic legislative overhaul of the oft-criticized USOC, according to a story in this morning's Washington Post.

"Campbell said he and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who introduced the bill July 15, reached a compromise on language that would make it difficult for USOC headquarters to be moved from Colorado Springs, the Post reported.

"Though Campbell originally supported the thrust of the bill, which calls for a reshaping of the organization's governance and ethics policies, he vowed to block it unless it contained a guarantee that the USOC would remain in Colorado Springs. McCain refused, saying location shouldn't be written into the law.

"Campbell and McCain agreed yesterday that moving the headquarters could be accomplished only by a unanimous vote of the USOC board of directors and a three-fifths majority of a proposed, 120-member Olympic Assembly, according to Campbell.

"'I think the language we worked out is going to be very, very protective and very good language,' Campbell, a 1964 Olympian in judo, said in a telephone interview. 'I know from my standpoint, making sure the headquarters stays in Colorado Springs, it's a lot safer with the bill [moving forward] than without it.'

"McCain said through a spokesman that a general agreement had been reached, but added that 'there are still a few details we're trying to resolve.'

"Campbell's decision to release his hold — which could have delayed the bill for up to two years — represented a crucial step in bringing reform to the USOC, whose board of directors meets in mid-October to vote on many of the changes outlined in the bill. The bill closely resembles reform plans presented by an internal USOC committee and a Senate-appointed commission.

"Because the USOC was created by the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, any organizational overhaul requires adherence to the law.

"'It's good news,' USOC President Bill Martin said. 'We certainly want to get our reform process over with both federally and internally. . . . This moves us a long way towards getting there. I am very pleased that a compromise has been reached. Hopefully, we can get [the reform] done this fall.'

"McCain's bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), calls for the replacement of the USOC's 124-member board of directors by a nine-member board; the elimination of the 23-member executive committee; and the formation of a 120-member Olympic Assembly, with limited voting powers.

"It further calls for ethics safeguards, whistleblower protections and additional congressional oversight.

"Campbell said he hoped the bill would reach the floor of the Senate by next week. Another USOC reform bill — this one from the House — is expected to be released in the coming days, said Ken Johnson, spokesman for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

"An embarrassing management and ethics crisis earlier this year attracted the attention of Congress and brought about calls for significant reform of the unwieldy national Olympic committee. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Transportation and Science, headed by McCain, has held three hearings on the USOC since January. In March, the House Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection Subcommittee held a hearing on the matter."

–The Washington Post

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