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Smith and Stoklos Could Face a Fine : Volleyball: Tour’s president says beach stars breached the players agreement by skipping Seal Beach Open.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sinjin Smith and Randy Stoklos are skipping the $100,000 Seal Beach Open pro beach volleyball tournament this weekend to play in Spain, and the decision might be a costly one.

The Assn. of Volleyball Professionals’ board of directors could fine Smith and Stoklos a minimum of $10,000 each and suspend them for a tournament for missing Seal Beach, a violation of the tour’s players agreement, AVP President Jon Stevenson said.

Stevenson said Smith and Stoklos, the two-time defending Seal Beach champions, are obligated by the players agreement to participate in AVP events before competing in other tournaments.

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Smith and Stoklos, both of Pacific Palisades, left Monday night for Almeria, Spain, to compete in the $250,000 Olympic year ’92 tournament sanctioned by the International Volleyball Federation. They did not return phone messages.

“It’s up to the discretion of (the board members),” Stevenson said. “We can fine them prize money. The whole idea is to take the incentive out of going to play in other tournaments.

“What we are evolving into is a theoretical fine. It has nothing to do with one player, but the damage to the tour by players of (their) ranking. I feel 100% fine, that’s F-I-N-E, that the board can make a decision in the best interest of the group.”

AVP board members could meet as early as next week and impose any penalties, Stevenson said.

The board consists of six players: Stevenson, Mike Dodd, Roger Clark, Robert Chavez, Kent Steffes and San Clemente’s Larry Mear. A majority rule is required before action can be taken, Stevenson said.

“I don’t want to anticipate, and that’s what everyone wants me to do,” he said. “Speaking for myself, we need to be able to enforce our player agreement. We need to take action when it is breached.”

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Smith and Stoklos are heavily favored in Spain’s 24-team tournament, which also includes Steve Obradovich and Newport Beach’s Steve Timmons. Obradovich and Timmons are not regulars on the AVP tour this season, and are not subject to a fine or suspension.

“This is a unique situation,” Stevenson said. “We’ve never had a big-money event like this (Spain) going against a prime Southern California event that’s televised nationally (on NBC).

“But in order to protect our tour, to meet our obligation to our sponsors, we need to create the best field possible. We need to be able to approve participation of our players.

“Smith and Stoklos have a very prominent image on our tour. Their perceived as part of the AVP product.”

In an interview last week, Stoklos said: “It’s important that we go to Spain . . . This will be the first time that (IOC president) Juan Antonio Samaranch will see a beach match. Sinjin and I have a goal to make this an Olympic sport.”

Stevenson said the board has fined players in the past for missing tournaments, adding that the tour “has to be bigger than any individual players.”

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“Sinjin and Randy have made unique contributions to the sport, ones that can’t be matched,” Stevenson said. “I don’t impugn their motives. I think they want to do this to develop the sport, and their participation is helpful. But we have put 16 years of momentum and sacrifice into making the Seal Beach Open a $100,000 tournament.

“I have no personal ax to grind with Smith. I want to protect the AVP, and the sacrifices that players like Smith have made for the sport.”

Smith and Stoklos, the dominant team on the tour the past 10 years, have struggled this season, winning only two of 21 tournaments. Their rivals, Steffes and San Clemente’s Karch Kiraly, have won the past 13 tournaments, tying the record for consecutive victories set in 1975-76 by Jim Menges and Greg Lee.

This season, Smith and Stoklos became the first beach players to earn more than $1 million in career prize money. Smith has won $86,685 and Stoklos $85,466 this season, but their last tournament victory was April 12 in Phoenix.

Stevenson said he hopes to avoid scheduling conflicts with tournaments in the future. He said the AVP and U.S. Volleyball Assn. reached an preliminary agreement Monday that would allow AVP officials to have a say in scheduling of future events, as well as which players would go to them.

“We recognize that the FIVB and the USVBA want to organize toward an Olympic movement for beach volleyball,” he said. “This (Spain) tournament might be a nice stepping stone toward that. But at the same time, we don’t want them to create a financial incentive for our players to go play in Spain.”

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