Nardiello Won’t Join World Cup Team
In his eyes, U.S. skeleton coach Tim Nardiello was vindicated by one small victory _ then finished by one massive defeat. He’d beaten sexual harassment allegations when an arbitrator found no evidence that he made inappropriate, innuendo-laden comments.
The accusers, including two women who failed to make the Olympic team and a man who had only minimal contact with Nardiello as a coach, apparently lacked a compelling case.
Even so, he’ll watch the Turin Olympics from home.
A costly, monthlong battle to clear his name fell short Tuesday when the U.S. Olympic Committee decided not to send him to Italy after all, citing violations of ethical standards and other indiscretions while coaching the American sliders.
His apparent undoing: a relationship with Kelly Moffat, a skeleton athlete from New Zealand.
The USOC’s decision had left open the possibility that he could coach for another country. But on Wednesday, the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (FIBT) said it chose someone else to lead its team of ``small nations″ athletes because it couldn’t keep waiting for the Nardiello saga to end.
And with that, the last realistic door Nardiello had at becoming an Olympic coach this year slammed shut.
Now Nardiello _ whose case has gone through the courts, countless federation meetings and the arbitrator who finally saw it his way _ says he’s through, at least for this season.
``I spent two years’ salary fighting the first fight, and that’s $36,000 a year times two,″ Nardiello said. ``It’s definitely not any fun anymore. My funds are gone. This thing has wiped me out. I have no means to take on another big fight. And I’m not going to dip into the kids’ college fund. But even now, I regret nothing.″
The USOC said Nardiello failed to use proper judgment and violated ethical codes and other standards. And while the committee didn’t cite her by name, most of Nardiello’s alleged violations pointed to his relationship with Moffat.
The two began dating in the fall of 2004, about two months before he was asked by the FIBT to coach her and three other athletes on its ``small nations″ team for countries without a widescale skeleton program.
``I know the appearance, to some, looks inappropriate,″ FIBT vice president David Kurtz said. ``But we were glad the U.S. coaches were helping the athletes from developing nations, because that was best for the sport. If there were any problems with Kelly and Tim, he would have been terminated immediately. There weren’t.″
Maybe not in the eyes of the FIBT, but several of those who filed grievances against Nardiello with the USBSF _ which were obtained by the Associated Press and reviewed Wednesday _ cited his involvement with Moffat as something they considered to be an ethical breach.
Those accusers who alluded to the Moffat-Nardiello relationship included Chuck Panza, a jury member for some FIBT events; U.S. women’s athlete Rebecca Sorensen, who also said she was a sexual harassment victim; and Marsha Gale, the mother of 2002 Olympic gold medalist Tristan Gale.
``He has a conflict of interest by having this relationship,″ Marsha Gale wrote. ``He spends more time with this athlete and it affects how he responds and communicates to other team members.″
But perhaps the most stunning claim came from Terry Allen, a former men’s national team member who said he was ``sexually and/or inappropriately harassed″ by Nardiello.
``Before I began my push, he said, ’Now, keep your legs together unless you want me between them,‴ Allen wrote. ``Now in some circles and in groups of men, such talk is sometimes used. However, I recall it being particularly offensive, because due to my sexual persuasion, that was not an inviting thought.″
Longtime U.S. team member Felicia Canfield also has said Nardiello tried to kiss her and touch her, among other claims. Nardiello was suspended Dec. 31, only to have that suspension overturned by the arbitrator who said there was no credible evidence to support the allegations.
None of the accusers with grievances reviewed by the AP responded to interview requests Wednesday. Their attorney, Mark Gaylord, said his clients believe the USBSF failed to investigate Nardiello but found the USOC’s inquiry to be extensive.
``Our clients are pleased to hear the USOC has taken the action it has and support the USOC’s decision in its entirety,″ Gaylord said.
Meanwhile, Nardiello remained in Lake Placid, N.Y. He’s still the U.S. coach, but won’t fly to Europe for the season’s final World Cup races and Olympic preparations. He’ll talk with his team by phone and e-mail.
``It is unfortunate that Tim will not be with us, and it would be great to have him there,″ said Katie Uhlaender, the only woman on the U.S. Olympic skeleton roster. ``But this season has been full of surprises and crazy situations. It is nothing that our team can’t handle.″
Nardiello’s attorney asked the USOC on Wednesday to see evidence contributing to its decision.
``The athletes scheduled to compete for the United States in the 2006 Olympics in skeleton support Coach Nardiello and they deny any inappropriate activities on the part of Coach Nardiello,″ wrote attorney James Brooks of Lake Placid. ``Why is the USOC ignoring that evidence?″
The USOC planned to respond to Brooks’ letter late Wednesday, but Nardiello didn’t plan to file any new grievance. The USBSF had no comment, and will name a new Olympic coach Thursday.
``I don’t get any due process,″ said Nardiello, a two-time luge Olympian. ``My thoughts of the USOC has definitely changed, and I’ve been a member of the Olympic family since 1984. I cannot believe it’s all come to this.″