Ethics Charges Upset U.S. Olympic President : International sports: Helmick says that raising specter of conflict of interest is a “rather vicious attack.”
Robert Helmick, U.S. Olympic Committee president and a member of the International Olympic Committee’s executive board, reacted angrily Thursday to questions raised in a national publication about possible conflicts of interest created by his role as a paid consultant to clients that either had or were seeking associations with the Olympic movement.
“I’m outraged,” the Des Moines, Iowa, lawyer said about the report in Thursday’s editions of USA Today that he earned at least $127,500 last year from four clients for services related to the Olympics. “I think this is a rather vicious attack against my professional life.”
Helmick, USOC president and an IOC member since 1985, said he requested last week, after being interviewed by USA Today reporters, that the matter be added to the agenda for discussion at Saturday’s regularly-scheduled USOC executive committee meeting at Chicago.
“I’ve already spoken with the executive director, our counsel and the chairman of the ethics committee, and they’ve all said that they have no problem with anything I did,” Helmick said.
Expressing support for Helmick was Michael Plant of Richmond, Va., chairman of the Athletes Advisory Council, who said: “From the facts that have been presented to me, it seems that no one could come to the conclusion that there is a blatant conflict of interest.”
But the USOC’s secretary, Chuck Foster of Duxbury, Mass., told the New York Times that Helmick’s arrangements with the clients are “an embarrassment to the USOC.”
Other executive committee members said they would wait to hear Helmick’s explanation before drawing conclusions.
“Serious things are being discussed, and we’re going to discuss this in a very serious manner with Bob,” said USOC vice president Michael Lenard, a Los Angeles lawyer. “We want to get a better understanding of the facts and of the letter and spirit of our conflict of interest rules and then see whether there was a lapse of judgment.”
Added Anita DeFrantz, the president of the Amateur Athletic Foundation in Los Angeles and the other U.S. representative to the IOC: “The first step is to have a full discussion at the executive committee meeting. I don’t know what the second step will be. We have an obligation to do what is in the best interests of the organization.”
According to USA Today, Helmick’s clients for consultations in 1990 included:
--Turner Broadcasting, the originator of the Goodwill Games and one of the networks involved in televising this summer’s Pan American Games from Cuba and the 1992 Winter Olympics from Albertville, France.
--Bob Seagren, an L.A. marketing executive and former Olympic pole vaulter, who, along with Helmick’s son, Robert Helmick Jr., sought advice from Helmick on steps toward earning IOC recognition for golf.
--Ron Meyers & Associates, an international production company that was pursuing IOC recognition for bowling.
USA Today also reported that Helmick’s law firm, Dorsey & Whitney of Minneapolis, handled licensing for non-sports pursuits and international contracting for Lifestyle Marketing, which seeks sponsors for the USOC and represented the Barcelona, Spain, organizing committee in television negotiations for the 1992 Summer Olympics.
Helmick said that he disclosed each of the arrangements when they were made with the USOC’s executive director, Harvey Schiller, and also discussed some of them with other USOC officials.
He added that he has an existing contract only with Turner Broadcasting, which, according to USA Today, paid him $37,500 in 1990. He said that he has consulted with TBS on issues relating to international sports but has not lobbied on its behalf in negotiations.
He has been a member since the middle of last year of the IOC’s program commission, which recommends sports for inclusion in the Olympics. But he said that his son and Seagren abandoned their efforts when they discovered that another governing body had taken the lead with the IOC on behalf of golf and that bowling representatives have not appeared before the program commission.