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Ron Judd's Olympics Insider

Ron Judd, an Olympics junkie and Seattle Times columnist who has covered Olympic sports since 1997, will use this space to serve up news and opinion on the Summer and Winter Games -- also inviting you to chime in on Planet Earth's biggest get-together.

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August 7, 2008 2:09 PM

Plot thickens in Hardy Girl's mystery series

Posted by Ron Judd

The plot thickens in the Hardy Girl's mystery. Two developments:

1) News emerges from Beijing, thanks to the intrepid Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times, that USA Swimming officials have no answer to the question -- which we posed in detail below -- about the 17-day lag in obtaining a positive test result for swimmer Jessica Hardy.

Dillman put the drug-test timing question to national team coach Mark Schubert:

(Begin quote:)

"The obvious solution is timely testing," Schubert said. "To be honest, I don't think we ever contemplated ever getting the drug results later than July 11, than when we asked for them. We were paying for expedited results."

He could not remember receiving drug tests so late in the game, so to speak.

"That would be a question for (the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency), because they're a third-party vendor of the USOC," Schubert said. "We can't dictate to them. We can only request."

(End quote.)

Schubert hasn't received an explanation, writes Dillman, who adds that she requested her own explanation from USADA CEO Travis Tygart and received no response. For the record, we have made the same request, and have also received no response. (At least now it doesn't feel personal.)

2) Schubert also acknowledged being involved in a day-long arbitration over the claim filed by Tara Kirk, who asked for an expedited ruling on being named to the Olympic team, and also for damages for failing to be named.

As reported below, the arbitrator denied her request to be placed on the team, noting that technically, USA Swimming had followed its rules, which currently do not allow for alternates to be named to take the place of a disqualified team member. Kirk's further claims will be heard next month.

Meanwhile, Swimming World magazine has posted the contents of a memo from USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus to his staff regarding the Kirk arbitration.

In it, he concludes: "USA Swimming's position all along in this matter has been that we are required to follow our published rules, and that is what we did. Hopefully this decision, after a long and detailed hearing on the facts, will satisfy those who publicly and privately have expressed concern."

Fat chance. Wielgus's letter, which refers to Kirk's "demands," already is drawing giant raspberries in the blogosphere pools of current and former swimmers, who blast the organization for hiding behind technicalities.

The more time passes, the more it looks like Kirk and other swimmers bounced from the team by USA Swimming's -- and perhaps USADA's -- bungling might actually have a sound legal case for damages.

Dillman quotes Schubert thusly: "I think we need to name alternates in every event, and I think those alternates need a commitment to train," he said. "Then we need to work out, with the organizing committee and with FINA (the international swimming federation), if there's a positive test, how a replacement could happen and if we could have some type of an exception to the entry deadline."

Well, duh.

If that had happened this time, Kirk and other deserving swimmers would be in Beijing today.

You can see what's going on here: U.S. swimming officials can talk about the need for future changes. But they likely are being advised that can't do what they should do -- acknowledge their screwups and apologize to affected swimmers -- because they fear that would make them liable to damage claims.

News flash: They probably already are.

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Blogroll and links The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information. Olympic news site from one of the Games' primary sponsors.
NBC Olympics columnist Alan Abrahamson's column/blog
Chicago Tribune Olympic sports writer Philip Hersh's blog U.S. Olympic Committee's athlete web site. Ed and Sheila Hula's Olympic News Service (subscription). News service with audio, video and text coverage of Olympic sports, during and between Olympics. Free, but charges for live video feed subscriptions. Beijing Organizing Committee Web site. Vancouver Organizing Committee's 2010 Winter Games site. London 2012 Summer Games site. Sochi, Russia's 2014 Winter Games site. Candidate city Chicago's summer 2016 bid committee site.
Olympic swimmer Tara Kirk's highly entertaining WCSN blog
Bellevue Olympian Scott Macartney's WCSN alpine ski-racing blog
Other WCSN Olympic athlete blogs.