Robert Helmick, president of the U.S. Olympic Committee for the last six years, resigned Wednesday amid controversy over whether his private financial arrangements as a sports law attorney represented a conflict of interest.
Helmick, 54, said as recently as last weekend that he would not leave office until his term expires in the fall of 1992, but he changed his mind while attending a meeting of the International Olympic Committee's executive board in Berlin.
He returned Wednesday to his New York office, where he made the announcement in a one-hour telephone conference call with USOC executive committee members. The 22-member executive committee had given Helmick a vote of confidence after meeting with him less than two weeks ago, although it also commissioned a special counsel to investigate further.
Besides serving as USOC president, a volunteer post, and a member of the IOC executive board, Helmick is a Des Moines, Iowa, attorney.
On Tuesday, Helmick met with the other 11 executive board members, and they agreed to hold any action on his case until the investigation was completed.
On Wednesday before Helmick's announcement, IOC Director General Francois Carrard said the executive board "felt there was no reason to take any standpoint--at this stage." He said the board meets in December, and "we will see what develops."
Carrard said Helmick never indicated to the board that he would resign soon.
"He was very careful about keeping all his options open," Carrard said. "We didn't ask him about it. At this stage, we didn't put him under that kind of pressure."
Helmick has been at the center of controversy since reports that he earned at least $127,000 in 1990 as a consultant for several sports companies with ties to the Olympics. The USOC executive board said it found no wrongdoing.
At the same time Tuesday, one of the USOC's national governing bodies, U.S. Skiing, sent an open letter to the USOC executive committee calling for the resignations of Helmick and executive director Harvey Schiller, who is a paid USOC official and second in command to Helmick.
U.S. Skiing, generally considered one of the USOC's more vociferous member organizations, accused Schiller of using his position to acquire perks, such as $3,000 USOC "gold passes," which provide unlimited free skiing at major resorts, and free ski equipment.
The letter was signed by three U.S. Skiing officials, including president and CEO Howard Peterson. Schiller was not specifically identified in the letter as the "senior USOC" official seeking perks, but Peterson said, in several separate interviews, that it was Schiller.
Schiller called the allegations ridiculous.
"They are not factual and without without basis," Schiller said.
REACTION: How leaders of America's Olympic sports organizations took the news of Helmick's resignation. C7