U.S. ski chief: Miller's comments 'unacceptable'

Updated: January 9, 2006, 10:30 PM ET
Associated Press

WENGEN, Switzerland -- The head of U.S. skiing on Monday called Bode Miller's comments about drinking and racing "unacceptable" and "irresponsible," and he plans to meet with the champion skier.

Bill Marolt, the president and chief executive of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, released a statement in response to the profile of Miller broadcast on CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday night.

He said Miller's remarks "relative to alcohol use in conjunction with competition are unacceptable within the values expected of U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association athletes."

Marolt, who is based in Park City, Utah, is making an unscheduled trip to this week's World Cup races in Switzerland to speak to Miller to "work with him to both recognize the seriousness of his comments and to reach a positive outcome."

"Not only is the use of alcohol irresponsible on the part of an athlete, but it is also a dangerously inappropriate message to send to participants in our sport, especially young skiers and snowboarders," Marolt said.

The International Ski Federation said it wanted the American ski team to address the latest controversy surrounding the reigning overall World Cup champion.

Miller told the CBS program that "there's been times when I've been in really tough shape at the top of the course."

"Talk about a hard challenge right there. ... If you ever tried to ski when you're wasted, it's not easy," Miller said. "Try and ski a slalom when ... you hit a gate less than every one a second, so it's risky, you know. You're putting your life at risk there. It's like driving drunk only there's no rules about it in ski racing."

Asked if the risk meant he would never ski drunk again, the 28-year-old Miller replied, "No, I'm not saying that."

Miller, who last season became the first U.S. skier to win the overall World Cup title in 22 years, has argued the comments were taken out of context. His agent, Lowell Taub, criticized the way the interview was characterized in excerpts and media accounts.

The Colorado Springs, Colo.-based U.S. Olympic Committee also released a statement about the interview.

"Bode is one of the greatest skiers in the world and he competes with a style and an intensity that is all his own," the USOC statement said. "That's part of what makes him great. We have tremendous respect for Bode, but we don't agree with everything he expressed in his interview with `60 Minutes.' Olympic athletes are role models."

The Winter Games will be held in Torino, Italy, Feb. 10-26.

"The story was more gracious than we were expecting after hearing all the interview hype," Dean Stoyer, a Nike spokesman, told The Associated Press. "Everybody was expecting a devastating story."

"Obviously, Nike doesn't support drinking and skiing, or drinking and sports activities," he added. "The two don't mix. We certainly don't condone that nor recommend being under the influence and skiing."

Barilla pasta representative Fabio Fortina said the Italian company would continue to support Miller.

"We are standing behind him. There is nothing else to say," Fortina told AP. "We are looking forward to the Olympics and are sure Bode will do great things there."

Miller has drawn attention -- and criticism -- for his outspokenness.

He has called anti-doping rules in skiing that he deems too strict "a joke," and was fined last month for refusing to take a boot test to ensure his equipment conformed to regulations after a World Cup slalom. He also has threatened to launch a rebel ski tour.

His irreverent attitude, late-night habits and refusal to compromise with coaches make him popular with the younger generation.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press