SBJ/20100823/SBJ In-Depth

Martin’s decision-making paid off for USOC

In the fall of 2003, while serving as acting president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Bill Martin stood before the board of USA Track & Field and reprimanded it for the group’s failure to rid the sport of doping. He urged it to cooperate with the USOC on the failed doping case of sprinter Jerome Young and define a strategy for eliminating performance-enhancing drugs.

“Enough is enough,” Martin said. “We will put you on probation. We will decertify you if you don’t get your house in order.”

The episode was vintage Martin. Like other times before, he walked into a difficult situation, took a stand and demanded that others join him. It was an approach that served him well as acting president of the USOC from 2003-04.

“Bill was pretty courageous in his decision-making,” said Jim Scherr, the USOC’s former CEO and the current CEO of 776 Original Marketing. “He could take a stand in a difficult situation and had the courage to follow through with it.”

The organization was in disarray when Martin took the helm. Its CEO was under scrutiny for unethical behavior, and Congress was pressuring it to reform. Martin managed to pull the organization back from the brink by building relationships with Sens. John McCain, Ted Stevens and Ben Nighthorse Campbell. He assured them that he could reform the USOC and received permission from the University of Michigan to lead that effort.

Over the subsequent nine months, Martin led a task force that reviewed the organization’s structure, oversaw the drafting of new bylaws that reduced the board from 125 to 11 members, and avoided a congressional overhaul of the USOC. He went on to lead the organization in defining a hard stance on doping in sports.

“He had a lot of personal credibility that he brought to the organization and he’s a very direct, frank and honest person, and that leadership style was exactly what the organization needed,” Scherr said. “He didn’t want anything more than to do his part as a leader and move on, and everyone bought into that.”

— Tripp Mickle

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