Now IOC Investigating Helmick : Controversy: Olympic committee looking into conflict of interest.
Less than 24 hours after he resigned under pressure as president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Robert Helmick’s controversial business arrangements as a consultant and sports law attorney became the subject of an International Olympic Committee investigation.
The IOC announced at the conclusion of a three-day executive board meeting Thursday at Berlin that it had formed a three-member commission to determine whether Helmick attempted to influence the IOC on behalf of his clients.
Helmick, who is from Des Moines, Iowa, was elected as one of two U.S. representatives to the IOC in 1985, the same year he began his tenure as USOC president, and became a member of the IOC’s 12-member executive board in 1989.
Reading from a prepared statement, IOC spokeswoman Michelle Verdier said the commission would “investigate all the consequences for the IOC of the potential conflicts of interest which may result from the representation by (Helmick) of various clients and organizations.”
The commission consists of IOC members Keba Mbaye of Senegal and Marc Hodler of Switzerland and the IOC’s director general, Francois Carrard. They were asked to report to the executive board at its next meeting in December at Lausanne, Switzerland.
“This is a very, very responsible reaction by the IOC,” Helmick said Thursday. “I look forward to the discussion about this entire situation.”
Helmick’s professional life has been the focus of scrutiny since it was reported two weeks ago by USA Today that he has served as a consultant in recent years to six clients who either had or sought business relationships with the USOC or the IOC. The clients reportedly have paid at least $275,000 to Helmick or his law firm, Minneapolis-based Dorsey & Whitney, since 1990.
Of particular interest to the IOC are Helmick’s associations with two groups that were attempting to earn recognition for golf and bowling as Olympic sports.
According to documents obtained by USA Today, Helmick received $50,000 from Robert L. Seagren, director of marketing for the U.S. Golf Federation, and $25,000 from Ron Meyers & Associates, which had been retained by Brunswick and the international bowling federation’s Olympic Effort Committee.
Helmick is a member of the IOC’s program commission, which recommends sports for inclusion in the Olympics. He said that he advised his clients about the process of earning IOC recognition but did not lobby for them.
“I can’t recall that Bob has done anything during our meetings to suggest he was working on their behalf,” said the other U.S. representative to the IOC, Anita DeFrantz of Los Angeles, who also is a member of the program commission.
After Helmick met with IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch and Mbaye, a former judge at the International Court of Justice, on the first day of the executive board meeting Tuesday at Berlin, Carrard indicated that the IOC would postpone any action until the completion of an investigation by the USOC’s special counsel, Arnold Burns.
But when the executive committee learned of Helmick’s resignation Wednesday night as USOC president, it decided to begin its own probe.
“I think the IOC just wants to assure the world that, despite whatever difficulties Bob has had in the United States, this is not an issue that has tainted the IOC,” DeFrantz said.
Also on Thursday, the USOC’s 22-member executive committee made arrangements to meet Monday at Colorado Springs, Colo., to plan the search for an interim president to complete the final 14 months of Helmick’s term.
One of three USOC vice presidents, L.A. lawyer Michael Lenard, said he believes a nominating committee will be appointed to identify candidates before the next meeting of the 101-member board of directors at Colorado Springs on Nov. 3, when a vote is likely.
Mentioned most often by executive committee members as potential candidates are Lenard, DeFrantz, USOC Vice President Bill Tutt of Colorado Springs and former USOC President Bill Simon of Morristown, N.J.