COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- A top official of the U.S. Olympic Committee questions whether the IOC and its embattled leader can deal with the worst scandal in the history of the games.
USOC executive director Dick Schultz said the International Olympic Committee may be unable to reform its clubby system when it meets next month.
"It's a wait-and-see thing," Schultz said, when asked if he had faith the IOC could repair the unprecedented problems that threaten the fate of the games and the multibillion-dollar empire they have created.
An ethics report on the bribery scandal surrounding Salt Lake City's successful quest for the 2002 Winter Games identified 24 IOC members -- a fifth of the membership -- who benefited from $1.2 million in cash, travel, medical care and other improper inducements from Utah bidders.
Nine members have resigned or been expelled. The IOC will hold a special session in Lausanne, Switzerland, March 17-18 to endorse the expulsions and consider reforms.
Those under investigation include one of the most powerful leaders of international sports -- Kim Un-yong, an IOC executive board member from South Korea and president of the international confederation of Olympic sports bodies.
"It's going to be interesting to see if they will be able to expel the people that, according to the information they have, they ought to expel," Schultz said. "It's going to be an interesting meeting."
While the IOC may not "fall apart" at the March session, Schultz added, "I don't think they will get all they are trying to accomplish."
The members also will be asked to give a vote of confidence to Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC president who has been the target of increasing calls to resign.
Most of those calls have come from outside the Olympic community, although international sponsors of the IOC -- most of them American based -- have complained that not enough is being done to clean up the mess that tarnishes their $50 million investments in the Olympic rings.
Schultz, who has maintained close ties with Samaranch since taking over at the USOC in 1995, has not asked for the 78-year-old Spaniard to step down.
But, in what has become a growing trend within the IOC's most important national subsidiary, he failed to give Samaranch a full endorsement.
Asked if it would be in the USOC's best interest if Samaranch were replaced, Schultz replied: "That depends who replaced him."
"Our hope is that Samaranch can continue until they get some of these new things in place," Schultz said. Samaranch's term expires in 2001.
The IOC's executive board last month recommended changes in the way Olympic host cities are picked, most notably taking the vote from the rank-and-file and giving it to a 15-member commission. That proposal has been sharply criticized by members, who say they would be punished for the corruption of others and stripped of one of their few meaningful duties.
Schultz, speaking at the end of a weekend USOC executive committee meeting, said he understood that IOC leaders were preparing a longer list of recommendations to be presented at the March session and afterward. He did not have details.
Anita DeFrantz, an IOC vice president and a USOC executive committee member, was traveling Sunday and unavailable for comment.
The USOC leadership was briefed by former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, whose independent ethics commission report on the Salt Lake scandal is to be released March 1.
Mitchell said Saturday the report will be completed this week but said its focus is on preventing other scandals as U.S. cities bid for the Olympics in 2012 and beyond.
"The emphasis will be on recommendations for rules, compliance and enforcement, which we hope, if adopted, will prevent the occurrences that led to the creation of the commission," he said.
At its meeting, the USOC leadership took the next step toward an independent drug-testing agency. The USOC has been criticized for being the only national Olympic committee that runs drug tests for its own athletes.
It passed a resolution endorsing the new program and said it hoped to have the matter ready for a vote at the USOC board of directors' meeting in New Orleans on April 10-11.
Schultz said major work still had to be done, including a decision on whether to hire an outside company or create a new one to do the tests. He said he had talked with the NFL and the NCAA about setting up a joint drug-testing office.
The executive committee also appointed Olympic track champion Jackie Joyner-Kersee as a special assistant to president Bill Hybl. The position generally involves work on task forces and other projects.
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