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WERE MEMBERS OF IOC SWAYED BY LAST-MINUTE LETTER ON ABORTION?

A letter slipped under the doors of International Olympic Committee members the evening before they voted on the 1998 Winter Games site opposed Salt Lake City's bid because of Utah's restrictive abortion law.

It was a "dirty trick," said David Johnson, vice president of the Salt Lake City Bid Committee for the Olympic Winter Games.The IOC picked Nagano, Japan, to host the 1998 Winter Games.

The correspondence, written on the letterhead of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, was delivered to hotel rooms in Birmingham, England.

"Basically, we restated the position we had taken with the U.S. Olympic Committee," said Sally Patterson, vice president for public affairs for PPFA, New York, and coordinator of the Olympics letter-writing project for the Pro-Choice Coalition.

Coalition members include PPFA, the American Civil Liberties Union, Catholics For a Free Choice, the National Black Women's Health Project, the National Organization for Women, the National Abortion Rights League and 10 other groups.

Johnson said the letter was an unfair tactic by people who had plenty of opportunity to speak out against Utah's nomination before the formal bidding process.

Rebecca Elliott, coordinator of Utah NOW, said the local organization had nothing to do with the Planned Parenthood letter, but she was glad to hear it was delivered.

Robert H. Helmick, president of the U.S. Olympic Committee and member of the IOC, said the letter did not sway any votes.

"As important an issue as that (abortion) is, it simply does not relate to the Olympics," he said from Des Moines, Iowa, shortly after his return from Europe. "It's a separate issue."