WORLD SPORTS SCENE / RANDY HARVEY : Inappropriate Use of Influence

If the Brazilian synchronized swimming judge in the 1992 Summer Olympics did indeed accidentally log in a lower mark than intended in the computerized scoring system, and she says she did, then it is difficult not to sympathize with the athlete who suffered from the error, Canada's Sylvie Frechette.

After all, Frechette might have won the gold medal in the venue where these things are supposed to be decided, the pool, if her compulsory figures score had not left her with an insurmountable disadvantage. As it was, she finished second to the United States' Kristen Babb-Sprague.

So the quarrel with last week's recommendation by FINA, the international swimming federation, that Frechette be awarded a gold medal is not with her. It is with Richard Pound, the Canadian executive board member of the International Olympic Committee who pressed the issue with FINA, even after it had rejected the swimmer's appeal at Barcelona.

Although Pound's intentions might have been honorable, it was an inappropriate flexing of his influence.

There are numerous controversies in each Olympics, and not every athlete who ends up on the losing end has an IOC executive board member for a guardian angel. These situations are best left in the hands of the sports governing bodies.

But if the IOC does not agree that this is a dangerous precedent, then perhaps executive board member Anita DeFrantz of Los Angeles could begin working on getting gold medals for the U.S. men's basketball team from 1972.

FINA, by the way, recommended that Babb-Sprague be allowed to retain her gold medal. She had no comment, saying that her attention now is focused on baseball's American League championship series. Her husband, Ed, plays for Toronto.


If Hollywood liked the story of the Jamaican bobsledders, it will love this one. Less than six months after 18 players, virtually the entire team, died in a plane crash en route to a game, Zambia needs only a tie Sunday against Morocco at Casablanca to earn one of Africa's three berths in soccer's 1994 World Cup.


Norwegians, whose national team also is on the verge of qualifying for the World Cup for the first time, are supposed to be level-headed and stoic. But that stereotype has been undermined by soccer mania.

According to a London newspaper, the European, fans have been walking the streets of Oslo wearing plastic Viking helmets with long white horns, and one front page there recently featured a photo of the team's coach, Egil Olsen, dressed as the Statue of Liberty. "I thought this could only happen in Rio or maybe Italy," he said.


Neither are Norwegians placid about the slogan for the 1994 Winter Olympics at Lillehammer. The organizing committee has been busy recently organizing a contest to select a new slogan after numerous complaints about this one: "They Said It Couldn't Be Done. But We'll Do It." Critics said that made it sound as if Norwegians were insecure about their organizational skills.


While the return of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean to Olympic competition is expected to revitalize ice dancing, it already has done that for British figure skating.

Expecting their national championships in January at Sheffield, England, to attract a crowd of 50,000, British officials recently announced that the BBC is resuming its telecast of the sport with a two-year deal that runs through the 1995 World Championships at Birmingham, England.

The only people in the United Kingdom who are not especially thrilled with T&D;'s return are the reigning national ice dancing champions, Marika Humphrey and Justin Lanning. Asked about their chances to win the country's one berth in the Olympics, Humphrey said, "No chance."


If you ask officials from triathlon and squash about gaining inclusion into the Olympics, they will tell you that it is a long, arduous process. But it happened so quickly for mountain biking that even its proponents were startled.

"The baby's only 4 years old, and already it's being treated like an adult," said Marc Lamet, president of the International Cycling Union's Mountain Bike Commission, after the IOC voted last month to add men's and women's cross-country events to the cycling program.

The first World Mountain Bike Championships were held only three years ago, but the sport's growing appeal for spectators was apparent when the final day of this year's championships in France drew 50,000.

Mountain biking is so popular that the UCI feared the sport's supporters would seek to form their own federation. It was for that reason that the IOC acted so hastily. As a result, mountain bikers can compete in the Olympics only through their affiliation with the UCI.


God save the Queen, but tell her to stay home: As Australia moves toward distancing itself from Great Britain, a poll revealed that only 23% of the people in the country down under prefer the British monarch to open the 2000 Summer Olympics at Sydney.

In a related item, Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating wants the nation's athletes to march into the opening ceremony for the 1996 Summer Olympics at Atlanta under a new flag, one that does not feature the British Union Jack.


Espionage files in Berlin allege that Heike Drechsler, long jump champion in the 1992 Summer Olympics and this year's World Championships, spied on her teammates while competing for East Germany.

According to a 218-page dossier, she operated under the code name "JUMP" while serving as an "unofficial colleague" of the government's secret police, the Stasi.

Drechsler denies the allegation but wants to examine the files before commenting further. One of the athletes she is said to have provided information about is former sprinter Marlies Gohr, whom the Stasi, according to the dossier, feared would defect because she was friendly to foreign athletes.

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