Harding Sues USOC : Figure skating: $20-million suit filed in Oregon says she should be allowed to compete in Lillehammer.

From Associated Press

Tonya Harding sued the U.S. Olympic Committee for $20 million Wednesday to block any attempt to keep her from skating at the Winter Games.

The suit, filed in Clackamas County Circuit Court in Oregon, contends that Harding has complied with all rules and regulations of the U.S. Figure Skating Assn. and should be allowed to compete.

The USOC has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday to determine whether Harding’s role in the attack on rival skater Nancy Kerrigan violated Olympic ethics. The hearing could get her thrown off the team.


The suit, which seeks $20 million in punitive damages, says people close to Harding have been charged with conspiracy in the Kerrigan assault, but that no charges have been filed against her.

Earlier, in a television interview, Harding vowed she would go to the Olympics, win a gold medal and “hang it on my wall forever.”

She also said that if given the chance, she would give Kerrigan a hug, “if she’ll let me.”

Accompanying his client as she left a TV taping in Portland, Ore., attorney Bob Weaver had said he would issue a statement soon as to whether she would appear before the USOC’s Games Administrative Board.

The USOC was notified Tuesday by Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, that he was willing to testify before the board provided he received permission from the Multnomah County (Ore.) district attorney to travel as well as expenses and legal fees.

The committee, through attorney Peter Alkalay, requested that Gillooly be made available to testify before the board. The request was made in a letter sent Tuesday to Gillooly’s attorney, Ron Hoevet.

Gillooly pleaded guilty to a charge of racketeering in connection with the Kerrigan attack and implicated Harding as one of the plotters. He has agreed to serve two years in prison and pay a $100,000 fine as part of a plea bargain.


Gillooly also asked that the results of a lie-detector test he took be made public and given to the USOC.

A hearing on Gillooly’s request was set for today. Multnomah County District Attorney Michael Schrunk said, “I can’t imagine” opposing the motion.

In an interview with “Inside Edition” set for broadcast today and Friday, Harding said: “I’m going to the Olympics. I’m going to win a gold medal. And, I’m going to hang it on my wall forever.”

She also said that given the chance, she would apologize to Kerrigan. “I’ll tell her that I’m really sorry that this has happened and that I always wish her the best and, hopefully, she’ll forgive me for all this crap that’s going on.

“Maybe (I’ll) give her a hug. If she’ll let me.”

Harding said winning a gold medal was important to her for reasons other than money.

“If it all ended tomorrow and I had a gold medal in my hand with the people I’m surrounded with now, my life would be complete.”

After avoiding comment for days, Harding also was interviewed for “Eye to Eye With Connie Chung,” set for broadcast tonight. She maintained her innocence and said she no longer loved Gillooly, because “if somebody loved me, they wouldn’t do this to me.”


She also said: “I can’t let this ruin me. I’ve worked too hard, too long, 20 years.”

Harding, the 23-year-old U.S. figure skating champion, was still scheduled to arrive in Norway next Wednesday, the day after the hearing is to begin.

Her absence probably would not change the USOC’s plans, Executive Director Harvey Schiller said, but it might not help her cause.

“My expectation would be that the board would consider all the information they have . . . in light of her non-appearance,” he said.

Harding’s reluctance to appear before the USOC hearing could stem from the fact that any testimony could be used against her in the criminal investigation still under way in Oregon.

Schiller said Gillooly was one of several prospective witnesses contacted by the USOC about their availability to testify in Oslo. He stressed that it was not certain Gillooly would be called.

“The burden of proof is on the USOC, not on Miss Harding,” Schiller said.

Earlier, he said Harding’s attorney had not given the USOC a specific date for her arrival. One thing is certain--Harding will not be on hand for the parade of athletes at Saturday’s opening ceremony.


“That’s not unusual,” Schiller said. “At previous Olympic Games, figure skaters as well as other athletes, for a variety of reasons, have arrived later than opening ceremonies.”

Women’s figure skating begins Feb. 23, two days after the deadline for finalizing the lineup. The USOC hearing could determine if 13-year-old Michelle Kwan of Torrance, the top alternate, gets to skate on Olympic ice.

Kerrigan, granted a spot on the team even though her knee injury prevented her from competing in the U.S. trials, left Boston for the Olympics on Wednesday.

Schiller said the committee was ready for anything.

“The USOC, like any other organization, considers the liability issues when it holds a board hearing,” he said. “We will protect our position in every way possible.”

The cost for the hearing and related activities is already $200,000, he said, and the 11-member board had not yet decided whether to pick up the tab for Harding’s lawyers and associates to attend. The USOC said if Gillooly is called to testify, it will pay travel expenses for him and his lawyer.

The hearing will focus on seven accusations laid out in a five-page USOC memorandum sent to Harding’s attorneys Monday night. The allegations concern her conduct in relation to the ethics codes of the USOC, the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Figure Skating Assn.


Schiller and other Olympic officials have repeatedly cited Harding’s Jan. 27 statement that she learned of the plot to attack Kerrigan after the fact and then withheld the information from police for more than a week.