U.S. Speed Skating Embroiled in Scandal
Editor’s Note: With the next Winter Olympics less than a year away, U.S. short-track speed skating is spinning into chaos, a Chicago Tribune examination has found. Philip Hersh has summarized below what he and his colleague Jared Hopkins revealed in a series of articles, including the links to what was originally published in The Chicago Tribune.
The rumblings began late last summer, when I got emails from skaters unhappy with what was happening in their sport. The formal grievances and code of conduct complaints filed with the U.S. Olympic Committee followed, with one containing this explosive allegation:
a U.S. short track skater had tampered with a Canadian rival’s skates.
When 2011 world champion Simon Cho admitted to the tampering and alleged his coach, Jae Su Chun, had told him to do it, the U.S. Speed Skating Federation faced a full-blown crisis that turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. Although an investigation cleared the coach on that charge, he was forced to resign for failing to report he knew of the tampering.
It did not end there, because 19 skaters had signed a grievance citing a laundry list of problems within the federation, and the U.S. short track team soon splintered into three factions.
For years, speed skating had been the most productive U.S. sport at the Winter Olympics, winning 85 medals from such winter sports icons as Eric Heiden, Bonnie Blair and Apolo Ohno. But results on the World Cup circuit this season showed that the disarray within the
federation threatened to affect performance at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. It was at that point my Tribune colleague, Jared Hopkins, and I began a three-month investigation that included nearly four dozen interviews and extensive examination of financial records.
We found this: While some of the division is due to skaters fighting among themselves and with the federation, it also is indicative of more
general financial and organizational problems that have plagued the governing body for years and have spun the sport into chaos.
For more details, click on the links below:
- http://galleries.apps.chicagotribune.com/chi-130221-winter -olympics-united-states-speedskating-pictures/
Speed skating long has operated feudally in the United States, with power passed down through family members and friendship among groups of people from the Midwest. Many of those people serve on the federation’s volunteer boards and committees, positions from which
they often meddle in management that should be done by the paid staff. And all this took on a new and more disturbing dimension when Andy Gabel, a former USS president and the ISU short track committee chairman, admitted to improper behavior with a young teammate in the 1990s. Gabel has resigned from both the ISU committee and U.S. Speed Skating’s Hall of Fame committee.
This week, the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) began to pressure the federation’s board of directors to rework the sport’s management and governance. It would be no surprise to see major changes early next week.
This story appeared in the blog, The Sport Intern. The editor is Karl Heinz-Huba of Lorsch, Germany. He can be reached at ISMG@aol.com. The article, which is a small part of an investigative series by Philip Hersch and Jared Hopkins of The Chicago Tribune. The links listed in the story are to the pieces in the Tribune. The article is reprinted here with permission of Mr. Heinz-Huba.