• U.S.

Olympic-Size Controversies

2 minute read
Sean Gregory

What would the winter Olympics be without skating, sledding—and soap operas? The 2006 Games in Torino, Italy, are a month away, but the controversies are already flying like a Finnish ski jumper. Canada angered many fans last month by naming hockey pariah Todd Bertuzzi—who pleaded guilty to assault for a vicious on-ice attack on Colorado Avalanche player Steve Moore in March 2004—to its Olympic squad, snubbing the sport’s golden boy, Siddney Crosby, 18. And injured figure-skating star Michelle Kwan, 25, last week said she would skip the U.S. championships, which double as the sport’s Olympic trials, and petition for one of three spots on the Torino team. If her petition is granted, another deserving skater stays home.

Perhaps the biggest scandal has thrust the spotlight onto the obscure sport of skeleton, in which “sliders” on sleds speed headfirst down an icy track. Several female athletes have accused U.S. team coach Tim Nardiello of sexual harassment. In a note to the board of the sport’s governing body, Felicia Canfield, who did not make the Olympic team, said that Nardiello “tried to kiss me on the lips” and that she “along with a dozen other athletes have heard Tim say over the radio, “The only time I want to see your legs spread like that is if I am between them.'” The board suspended Nardiello pending an investigation; the New York State supreme court this week is set to hear his petition for reinstatement. Nardiello’s lawyer, James Brooks, told TIME his client made the “legs spread” comment just once, in 2002, to remind an athlete to position her body correctly on the sled. Did Nardiello try to kiss Canfield, 40? “Never,” Brooks says. “You ever seen her?” Here’s a lawyer who believes offense is the best defense.

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Write to Sean Gregory at sean.gregory@time.com