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|Subject: Robert Helmick, Former Olympic Committee President|
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Date Posted: April 16, 2003 2:01:25 EDT
Robert H. Helmick, a former president of the United States Olympic Committee who resigned in 1991 because of perceived conflicts of interest, died yesterday at a hospital in Des Moines. He was 66.
He had a stroke last Friday, his wife, Georgia, said.
While working full time as a lawyer specializing in public finance, Mr. Helmick served as president of the Amateur Athletic Union (1978 to 1980), secretary (1976-84) and president (1984-88) of the International Swimming Federation, president of the U.S.O.C. (1985-91) and member (1985-91) and executive board member (1988-91) of the International Olympic Committee. All were unpaid positions.
In 1991, news media reports said he had been a paid consultant to organizations that did business or hoped to do business with the United States Olympic Committee and other sports governing bodies. Mr. Helmick said that while that was true, he had previously made full disclosures of such private business to the U.S.O.C. staff.
He added: "You should accept business only for valid business reasons. And that is what I did."
While he denied conflicts of interest, he resigned from the U.S.O.C. position and the I.O.C., saying he did not want to be disruptive.
Subsequently, an independent counsel, Arnold I. Burns, a former United States deputy attorney general, made a 10-week investigation for the U.S.O.C. He concluded that while Mr. Helmick should have made other Olympic committee senior officials aware of potential conflicts of interest, Mr. Helmick had not influenced or attempted to influence any U.S.O.C. decision in connection with his outside work.
Despite his problems, Mr. Helmick was the chief architect at the U.S.O.C. in creating a corporate-style organization.
Mr. Helmick remained on the committee's board as a past president after his resignation but did not participate in the organization's affairs.
In 2001, he was named as a member of the U.S.O.C.'s international relations committee.
Robert Hanna Helmick was born March 5, 1937, in Des Moines and was raised there. He received a bachelor's degree in mathematics and music from Drake University in 1957 and a law degree from Drake Law School in 1960. He was a water polo player, and in 1972 he was manager of the United States Olympic water polo team.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by four children from a previous marriage: John, of Eugene, Ore.; Rob, of Denver; Stephanie Ormsby, of Crystal Lake, Ill.; and Suzanne Book of Englewood, Colo.; a brother, Bert, of Washington; two sisters, Ruth Lier of Los Alamos, N.M., and Lois Hobson of Englewood; Colo., and 13 grandchildren.
When Mr. Helmick took over the U.S.O.C. reins, no athlete received more than $2,500 a year toward living expenses, and many had to drop out or work part time. He changed that, but it started with an uproar.
In the middle of the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, he appointed an overview commission to determine why the American team was not doing well and how that could be changed. The chairman was George Steinbrenner, the Yankees' principal owner and a U.S.O.C. vice president.
It turned out to be a watershed event in the committee's history. The commission's work changed the way the U.S.O.C. directed financial support to athletes. Some American officials believed it had a direct impact on the Americans' ability to win the medal count in Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000 and almost in Salt Lake City in 2002.
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