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BAIUL STAYING PRO COULD DEAL A HUGE BLOW TO AMATEUR SKATING?

     '94 Olympic Gold figure skater Oksana Baiul must apply to
the Int'l Skating Union for reinstatement of her "amateur" status
by April 1.  Failure to do so would make her ineligible for
future ISU World Championships and the Olympics.  According to
Philip Hersh in this morning's CHICAGO TRIBUNE, Baiul could "tip
the balance of power in the sport even more toward the
professional promoters" if she decides not to declare her amateur
status.  Baiul is the only one many thought would reinstate and
give the ISU the "marquee female skater it badly lacks in current
'amateur' events."  White Sox Vice Chair Eddie Einhorn, who
negotiates TV contracts for the ISU:  "The key to the whole thing
is Oksana.  If we don't come up with something to keep our
eligible skaters and get Oksana to come back, we will have
trouble soon getting enough attractive skaters for the World
Championships and Olympics to satisfy TV and the ISU sponsors."
ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta: "Who is Oksana Baiul?  She is
not God.  We will not be blackmailed by Oksana Baiul.  If we lose
her, we will create other Oksana Baiuls" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/23).
     THE POSITIVES:  In the current issue of NEWSWEEK, Martha
Duffy examines the popularity of the sport.  In addition to new
talent, like the "saucy" 17-year old Nicole Bobek -- who
possesses a "tantalizing combination of child and woman" -- the
additional coverage of network TV has added to the sport's
popularity.  But, with the money and TV, comes producers who set
up their own tournaments that ignore most traditional rules, drug
tests, and credentials of entrants.  Duffy: "Like tennis, figure
skating seems to be leaving behind such niceties as the
distinction between amateurs and pros. It will be several years
before the sport's new profile is defined" (NEWSWEEK, 2/27
issue).   Chicago tourism officials hope to "cash in by hosting a
championship contest for the next Olympic incarnation of the
sport: team figure skating."  The city is hosting the '95 Mid-
Western Precision Championship this week as a dress rehearsal for
team skating nationals, which could be held in Chicago next year
(CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS, 2/26 issue).
     OFF-ICE CAPERS:  SI's "Scorecard" tracks recent off-ice
incidents.  The pairs team of Elizabeth and Jerod Swallow
recently admitted they successfully interfered with a Societ
rival's efforts last winter to gain U.S. citizenship.  Bobek, who
recently won the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Providence,
is in the news for allegedly walking out of another skater's
house last November with money that did not belong to her.  At
the "very least these two incidents make it clear that [Tonya]
Harding is far from the only bete noire in a sport that looks
more and more like boxing with makeup and sequins" (SI, 2/27
issue).
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