USOC To Clear Swimmer DeMont's Name

Wednesday, January 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Twenty-nine years after swimmer Rick DeMont was stripped of an Olympic gold medal for using an asthma medication containing a banned substance, he says the U.S. Olympic Committee will clear his name.

``For the last 12 years I've made an attempt to see what I can do to remedy this situation,'' he said Tuesday. ``What they say is the most positive thing that's come out of my efforts.''

David Ulich, DeMont's attorney, said the U.S. Olympic Committee will put out a news release Thursday morning, although its director Mike Moran did not return messages left by The Associated Press.

``We're real happy that the U.S. Olympic Committee has agreed to issue a press release and clarify that Rick was an innocent victim,'' Ulich said. ``I think he's very pleased. He's anxious to have his name cleared and to be putting this behind him so he can move on with his life.''

DeMont, 44, is now an assistant swimming coach at the University of Arizona.

``I think no one really wanted to admit they were responsible,'' he said. ``It was easier to hang a 16-year-old kid out to dry than to tell the truth.''

DeMont noted that while the statement is not an apology, it is a step in the right direction toward regaining his medal, although he knows it may be still longer before the IOC does that.

``These people's biggest fears are public perception,'' he said.

Mary Wagner, a spokeswoman for USA Swimming in Colorado Springs, Colo., said her organization was not involved in the settlement.

DeMont won the 400-meter freestyle as a 16-year-old at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany, but his gold medal was taken away when traces of the banned substance ephedrine showed up in a routine post-race urine test.

The International Olympic Committee also handed DeMont a lifelong suspension.

DeMont would ``like to get his gold medal back, but that's not in the power of the USOC,'' Ulich said.

Only the IOC has the ability to restore DeMont's gold medal, which was awarded to Bradford Cooper of Australia.

``We view this as a stepping stone toward that goal,'' Ulich said.

First, another proposal must be submitted to the IOC executive committee.

Ulich said it could be a difficult process to have the medal restored, but refused to rule out the possibility it could happen.

A source close to DeMont told The San Francisco Chronicle that the IOC will reconsider the previously denied appeal to restore his gold medal.

DeMont was allergic to wheat and fur, and was taking the drugs Marax and Actifed when he competed in the 1972 Olympics. He also received weekly shots for his allergies. DeMont listed the drugs on his medical statement, but the information was never relayed to the proper authorities at the IOC's medical commission, Ulich said.

The USOC has agreed to issue a press release on Thursday acknowledging that DeMont had disclosed that he was taking Marax before the Olympics, Ulich said.

The statement is one of the terms of a settlement resolving a 1996 lawsuit DeMont filed claiming that the USOC was, in effect, a trustee for him and mishandled his medical disclosure.

His lawsuit also claimed that the USOC's delegate to the IOC, Anita DeFrantz, had libeled him in commenting that the USOC had never been notified that he was asthmatic or been given the amount or kind of medication he was taking.

``All suits are going to be dismissed in connection with this resolution,'' Ulich said.

Under the settlement, ``We're not allowed to comment on any monetary portion,'' the attorney said. The USOC also has agreed to clarify information on the interactive visitor's kiosk at the organization's headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., he said.

That information, which now says ``Did Not Compete'' under De Mont's name, will reflect that he did compete in the 1972 Olympics and name his accomplishments.

The settlement statement does not issue an apology for any mistakes USOC doctors might have made by not telling DeMont that his medication could disqualify him.

``We didn't want to really get into fingerpointing so we avoided that tack and just focused on the positive — on clarifying what Rick's situation was without pointing fingers at anyone,'' Ulich said.

DeMont also will be recognized at a USOC meeting April 28 in San Jose, Calif.