IOC, USOC progressing in negotiations

Updated: April 7, 2011, 2:54 PM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- The IOC and U.S. Olympic Committee made more progress Thursday in negotiations on a new revenue-sharing agreement and hope to sign a deal by July.

USOC chairman Larry Probst and CEO Scott Blackmun met with the three-man International Olympic Committee negotiating team in the latest talks aimed at resolving the long-festering financial dispute that has strained relations.

"We had a very positive meeting," IOC marketing commission chairman Gerhard Heiberg told The Associate Press. "They had a proposal. We had a counterproposal. We will study this and see how we proceed. We are getting closer and closer to finding an end solution. Hopefully we will find a solution as soon as possible."

The sides will meet again next month in Lausanne, Switzerland, and "hopefully" complete an agreement before the IOC general assembly in early July in Durban, South Africa, Heiberg said.

It's the first time any IOC or USOC official has spoken about completing a deal so soon.

"We need this agreement," Heiberg said. "It's in the interest of everybody."

Blackmun was also upbeat about progress in negotiations.

"Our discussions with them are going well," he told the AP. "They appear to be headed in a positive direction. We're having very constructive discussions."

The USOC receives 20 percent of global sponsorship revenues and nearly 13 percent of U.S. broadcast rights deals -- figures many international officials consider too high.

International resentment over the USOC's share was considered a key factor in Chicago's first-round loss in the IOC vote in 2009 for the 2016 Olympics, which were awarded to Rio de Janeiro.

The two sides agreed last year to negotiate a new formula that will take effect in 2020. The negotiations were originally scheduled to begin in 2013, but officials agreed last year to start as soon as possible. The first round of talks was held in January in Lausanne.

"We weren't even going to begin these discussions until 2013, so the mere fact that we're having them is a positive sign," Blackmun said.

A first breakthrough on financial issues came in September when the USOC agreed to contribute about $18 million toward the administrative costs of staging the 2010 and 2012 Olympic Games.

Apart from Heiberg, the IOC negotiating team includes finance commission chairman Richard Carrion and director general Christophe De Kepper.

The talks Thursday mark another step in the concerted efforts by Probst and Blackmun to mend ties with the IOC and rebuild relations with the international Olympic movement. The two men have traveled the world and appeared at numerous international meetings in the past year, including this week's SportAccord convention in London.

"One of the most newsworthy things is that it's no longer newsworthy when Larry and I show up at these events," Blackmun said. "I think that's a good thing."

On another USOC-IOC issue, Blackmun welcomed moves to seek a ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport on an anti-doping rule that could prevent American runner LaShawn Merritt from defending his 400-meter title at next year's London Olympics.

The IOC has a rule that bars any athlete with a doping suspension of at least six months from competing in the next Olympics.

Merritt received a 21-month suspension last year after testing positive for a banned substance found in a male enhancement product.

The American Arbitration Association panel that banned Merritt contested the IOC rule, saying it goes against the World Anti-Doping Agency code and would essentially extend his ban to three years. The IOC says it is not a sanction but an eligibility issue.

"We have two separate rulings -- one from the IOC basically saying that he's not eligible and one by an arbitrator in the United States saying we have to let him compete, so those two rulings are directly in conflict with each other," Blackmun said.

The IOC and USOC are working on submitting a joint application to CAS in Switzerland.

"I'm very hopeful in the near term there will be proceedings that end the uncertainty that exists," Blackmun said. "We fully support the IOC in their efforts to have the strictest possible anti-doping rules. In this case, we have some uncertainty that we need to get clarified and we're working with the IOC to try to do that."


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press