USOC to form panel to review charges

Posted: Tuesday, January 21, 2003

DENVER -- The U.S. Olympic Committee plans an independent investigation of Lloyd Ward following the resignation of five members angered by his exoneration on ethics charges.

The investigation comes amid a report in the Los Angeles Times on Monday that the U.S. Justice Department plans to send officials to the Dominican Republic to investigate a deal between the 2003 Pan American Games and a company with ties to Ward's brother.

Justice Department spokeswoman Monica Goodling declined comment to The Associated Press on the reported investigation.

Ward was cleared of ethics charges by the USOC's executive committee last week after being accused of trying to steer Pan American Games business to a company with ties to his brother.

The executive committee reprimanded him, saying he ''created the appearance of a conflict of interest.''

Five USOC officials have quit since the decision. The members, including ethics compliance officer Pat Rodgers, a paid USOC employee, claim a review by the USOC's ethics committee was manipulated so Ward would be cleared.

USOC president Marty Mankamyer said Monday that the USOC will create an independent group to investigate findings by the ethics committee and the decisions made by executive committee.

The announcement came after Anita DeFrantz, the senior U.S. member of the International Olympic Committee, sent an e-mail to executive committee members calling for a review of the charges against Ward.

DeFrantz said that an independent review ''is the best and probably the only way to heal this organization and resuscitate its good name.''

The Times first reported last month that Ward directed USOC staff to make introductions on behalf of Energy Management Technologies to Pan Am organizers in the Dominican Republic. Last July, Ward signed a USOC disclosure form that said he had no real or perceived conflicts of interest.

U.S. authorities have made arrangements to meet Wednesday with Lowell Fernandez, project manager of the Pan Am Games, who says he was offered a bribe by EMT CEO Lorenzo Williams, the Times said.

''There was interest by the U.S. Attorney's office that this case might be interesting,'' Fernandez was quoted as telling the newspaper.

USOC spokesman Mike Moran said Monday that the USOC had not been notified of any activity by the Justice Department.

The USOC has struggled through problems in its top ranks for more than a decade. Since 2000, the organization has had three presidents and four chief executives. The corruption scandal tied to Salt Lake City's winning bid for the 2002 Winter Games led to the resignations or expulsions of 10 IOC members.

On Friday, Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, summoned USOC leaders to a meeting later this month to discuss the future of Olympic sports in the United States. He warned that the Olympic movement cannot be ''eroded by personnel problems or failure of its management.''

Mankamyer, the top-ranking volunteer, told executive committee members last week that she was going to resign, but changed her mind Thursday after three USOC ethics committee members resigned.

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