Harding Drops Lawsuit, to Compete in Olympics
The U.S. Olympic Committee on Saturday cleared the way for Tonya Harding to skate in the Winter Games. In return, Harding’s attorneys agreed to drop a $25-million lawsuit against the USOC.
Just hours after the opening ceremonies signaled the start of the 17th Winter Games, a compromise was reached in the controversy that had threatened to overshadow all other Olympic athletes and events. Instead, the stage has been set for what may be one of the most dramatic competitions in Olympic history--Harding vs. Nancy Kerrigan in women’s figure skating. The competition is Feb. 23 and 25.
The resolution ends the USOC’s attempt to hold a Games Administrative Board hearing in Oslo to consider Harding’s Olympic eligibility. The hearing had been scheduled for Tuesday, then pushed back to Friday.
Harding’s attorneys argued Friday in Clackamas County Circuit Court that the board hearing would deny their client due process. After hearing arguments in open court and in chambers, Judge Patrick D. Gilroy urged both sides to reach an agreement, saying he was “genuinely concerned” with the effect the controversy would have on the Games.
A source involved in Saturday’s meetings said that Gilroy put attorneys for both sides in different rooms at the Clackamas County Circuit Courthouse for nearly eight hours. The source said Gilroy proposed a scenario in which Harding would be allowed to skate in return for an agreement to drop the suit. Gilroy shuttled between each room, the source said, until an agreement was reached at 3:30 p.m. PST.
“The U.S. Olympic Committee is happy with it (the agreement) because they can get on with the Games without this sensational mess to worry about,” the source said.
Attorneys for Harding filed a lawsuit seeking at least $25 million against the USOC on Wednesday, saying the planned board meeting in Oslo would deny her due process. On Thursday, attorneys filed a motion for a temporary restraining order to block the hearing.
Harding, who has admitted she knew about the Jan. 6 attack on rival skater Nancy Kerrigan well before she reported it to authorities, will likely arrive in Norway on Wednesday.
Four men--including Harding’s ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly--have been arrested in the alleged plot to injure Kerrigan. Gillooly has implicated Harding in the planning of the attack as well; Harding has denied those allegations. She has not been charged.
USOC spokesman Mike Moran said that, to his knowledge, Kerrigan had not been informed of the decision because of the lateness of the hour in Lillehammer, where Kerrigan arrived on Thursday.
“The ongoing criminal investigation in Oregon as well as the U.S. Figure Skating Assn. disciplinary review of Tonya Harding and the distraction to our athletes and their preparations have helped to make our efforts for a Games Administrative Board hearing difficult if not impossible,” the USOC said in a statement.
“Tonya Harding regrets any inconvenience the Oregon court proceeding has caused to the United States Olympic Committee, the International Olympic Committee and the other Olympic athletes,” a statement released by Harding and her attorneys said. “Tonya simply wants to skate in the Olympics and be treated fairly.”