Jim Moran and Rocky Anderson Take on the U.S. Ski Team
by jim moran
If you didn't read my last column, I was ranked second on the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, but I had not met the new criteria to go to the Olympics in Nagano. When the Team told me I wasn't going, I told them "I'll see you in court."
The time has come for legal action. I have found an awesome guy to represent me, and you obviously agree because you recently elected him Mayor of Salt Lake City. The stress is high because this case involves myself and two other freestyle team members, as well as 23 alpine skiers.
Stacy Blumer, another plaintiff, has also hired a great lawyer that was young but obviously brilliant; Mark Levinstein graduated in the top of his class at Harvard Law School. We started out in a small meeting room. Our two lawyers decided that Rocky would handle the majority of the examining and cross-examining, and Mark would do the majority of the paper litigation. Stacy and I were supposed to shut up unless spoken to. Right to work. The arbitrator entered the courtroom and introduced himself. Mr. Rowen, the lawyer for the US Ski Team, explained the reason for being there. Then Mark Levenstein talked about the necessity of the trial, and how the Amateur Sports Act states that the case is clearly justified. The first thing was to clarify the written material. The United States Olympic committee had sent their lawyer to help out, but not take a side.
When it came time for the examinations, Rocky Anderson first called to witness Jonny Moseley (via telephone). They spoke about who he was and what he did. Then Rocky asked him if he felt that Evan, and I had the potential to win a medal at the Olympics.
Jonny answered, "It is clear that their ability to podium is as good as mine, Alex Wilson, Jon Luc Brassard, as good as anyone. And I know that I know that, because I have spent the most time with them out of anyone, and I've seen them perform in circumstances and win, and multiple times. I think that they have proven in the past three years that they have the ability to win. There is a lot of people who go through the whole World Cup on the ski team and never get close to the podium, and these guys came out in their first year on the podium. So that is where my feeling comes from, I wouldn't even be dealing with this arbitration if I didn't feel these guys could win the Olympics."
Next they examined Chris Haslock, then Liz McIntire, then it moved to Stacy's side of the examination. The first called was Matt Chojnocki. Mark Levinstein did this examination.
He asked Matt, "Did anyone tell you that there was a good chance spots would not be filled in the one allocated to the US Ski Team?" Matt answered, "No I thought it was kind of shocking not to fill the 14 spots."
Mr. Levinsein asked, "So basically on your understanding of the rules, and as a part of the team, no one gave you the clear idea before that, that was the likelyhood?"
"No. No it came as a surprise the other day." Then they examined Bruce Erickson, a US Ski Team coach.
Mr. Levinstein asked, "Were you aware that there were complaints about sexual harassment in 1995 against Mr. Hilderbrand?"
"Yes, I was aware,"
"Against Mr. Hilderband?"
"Do you know if those complains played a role in his being fired in1995?"
"I am not the boss, and I am not making the decisions, but I am assuming so." "Did you-- do you know who made the decision with respect to Aerial Freestyle as to who would be given the discretionary spots?"
"To the best of my knowledge, no discretionary spots have to be given."
"Do you know who made the decision that no discretionary spots would be given?"
"I am assuming Mr. Hilderbrand." The next examination went to Mr. William Joseph Stapleton.
"What is your present position with the United States Olympic Committee?"
"I am the current Chairman of the Athletes Advisory Council."
"And are you on the board of the USOC?"
"I am on the board, and the USOC Executive Committee."
"How long have you been on the Executive committee?"
"To the best of your knowledge, has the-- has there been discussion at the USOC about not sending every athlete to the Olympic Games that the USOC or a NGB permitted to send?"
"Yes, that has been a top group discussion for the past couple years. It had been an ongoing debate within the Olympic family. It was labeled The Full Teams Issue, and the debate was whether we should still continue to do that, and there was a group of people who felt that it was part of-- sort of the Olympic creed to take a full team, because it was about participation."
The examination of Joel Walsh was next.
"I am the athlete representative elected by the athletes of the US Ski and Snowboard Association to the Olympic Committee Athletes Advisory Counsel, which is a council representative of one athlete committee from an Olympic representative."
"Do you have a view as to whether Jim Moran is a genuine contender to win a medal if he were a member of the US Olympic Freestyle Team?"
"He most certainly is a contender."
"Does the approach of the ski association now, or the philosophy set forth particularly with regard to the Freestyle team, comport with that goal of the Olympic movement, and could you explain how?"
"It restricts the participation in the Olympics-- in the Olympics arbitrarily, which not only affects the competitiveness of the team and the experience of the individual athletes who got to the competition, but it also cheats those people who those athletes come in contact with. It cheats the American public, other supporters of them, sponsors, and everybody on down the line who has any contact with the Olympics. Whether it just be watching in their living rooms on television, or knowing someone who went and participated, or knowing someone who might want to go and participate."
"So how would you characterize the overriding approach now of the Ski Association-- with regard to the Freestyle Team?"
Now it was time for me to be examined. I started out by telling the story of my life and the fact that I have dreamed about representing the country in the Olympic Games. Then I gave the facts about my career. "Can you describe for us here, what this means to you and-- in your life?"
"Excuse me. I have a really hard time understanding the mentality of USSA. How I can devote my entire life to this, train every day, cripple my body, be qualified second-- the second highest result on the US Ski Team and not have them send me, because they don't want to fill the spot. I can't understand that. And I will never ever understand that, never."
Then it was time for Bill Marolt. "Are you aware of what happened recently in China in terms of swimming competition and the world records that were purportedly broken by there swimming team?"
"Vaguely, I am aware of it."
"Are you aware that those records are not being recognized by the swimming association?"
"Yes, I need a yes."
"And do you know why that is?"
"Apparently they were taking drugs or-- I don't know why."
"That happens when winning becomes everything, don't we see that in a lot in sports internationally, the use of steroids, the abuse of steroids, the use of drugs, anything to win-- do you agree with that?"
Since Marolt's philosophy is all about winning, you can imagine his answer.
The final words of the arbitration were spoken by William H. Ericson.
"Accordingly, utilizing equitable powers, the arbitrators award that USSA and the USOC be directed to name Jim Moran and Evan Dydvig (mogul freestyle skiers), and Stacy Blumer (aerial freestyle skier), to be vacant spots on the US Freestyle Olympic Team for the 1998 Winter Olympics at Nagano, Japan. Costs are assessed against the respondent USSA."
The simple fact is that the US Ski Association was wrong. When the Olympics were first started, the founder, Pierre de Coubertin stated, "In idealizing participation and the struggle of competition over the fleeting glory of triumphs, I clearly recognize that for an athlete, the opportunity to compete is an important part of life." He also believed that athletes striving for physical excellence demonstrated and developed moral and spiritual qualities that benefited society. The Olympic Games would contribute to harmony and peaceful relations among the peoples and nations of the earth.
Sending a team with open spots completely defeats the whole purpose of the Olympic Games. It had only happened once before in the history of the games. The common denominator, both times, was the Executive Director of the National Ski and Snowboard Federation, Bill Marolt. In 1984, the first time that this happened, he was the Head Coach of the Alpine Team.
When Marolt was an Olympian in 1964, he wouldn't have even qualified through the criteria that he made me try to accomplish. The fact is that this jerk does not even know what the Olympics are really all about. My lawyer, Rocky Anderson, stated it best. "Your honor, we're talking here not about simple participation, because these extraordinary athletes who have been given the opportunity are going to make this country proud and are very, very likely not only going to make it into the finals, but have a great shot at bringing home a medal. But that is not the standard. The philosophy, apparently, of the Ski Association and of the Freestyle Team, and the philosophy set by the Ski Association only talks about winning. That is completely contrary to the entire Olympic charter and the goals of Olympism. The competitiveness, the fact that we are supposed to send our finest athletes is addressed in the federation statute. The Amateur Sports Act at section 374 (4), provides that the governing body which is-- no, excuse me, that the United States Olympic Committee is to, and I quote, obtain for the United States the most competent amateur possible in each competition and event of the Olympic Games."
The fact is that not only did they f**k me, but they also f****d every citizen of the United States reading this article. The US Ski Team has a lot to learn. The business world may revolve around money, but the Olympics does not!
You may hope that the US brings home the Gold, but for a moment, think about the bigger picture. The Olympics is about being the best that you can be and helping life evolve. It does not matter if the US is the winner. It matters that the human race pushes the envelope. I personally do not care who wins. It is more a question of did the athletes perform incredibly in the situation that they were given, did they push the envelope?
I learned a great deal. I was in a situation where I wanted to win and I had that goal, but more importantly my desire to achieve that goal was stolen from me. I was so happy that I won the case and they named me to the team that I simply lost my desire to win. Real true desire, the kind that combines your heart and your mind. I feel that I had the mind part, but the heart part was gone.
I quit the US Team because my heart wasn't in it anymore. My new goal became to prove that I was not just a "Bump Chump," and that my talents lay elsewhere as well. I had already learned the secret to life. I used it when I came out of my comma. My goal was to recover totally, and my desire was about one half a second behind. I still work on that goal today, and oh yes I still have the desire. Peace out!