clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Utah court to settle Olympic suit

A legal dispute over the selection of the U.S. Olympic snowboard team has been moved from Virginia to the U.S. District Court in Utah.

The suit, which pits the Professional Snowboarder Association and snowboard manufacturers against the U.S. Ski Association (USSA), was originally filed in July in Virginia.In moving the case to Utah, U.S. District Judge Albert V. Bryan Jr. noted the USSA is a Utah corporation based in Park City and that most of the events giving rise to the controversy occurred in Utah.

"The fact that companies which have been designated by (USSA) as official U.S. Olympic snowboard team sponsors advertise and sell their merchandise in Virginia is insufficient to give this court jurisdiction over (USSA)," Bryan said.

The International Olympic Committee announced in 1995 that snowboarding would become an official Olympic event beginning in the 1998 Nagano, Japan, Winter Games. The U.S. Olympic Committee than appointed the Park City-based USSA as the national governing body for the sport of snowboarding.

The snowboarder groups alleges the USSA broke a 1996 agreement designed to "maintain the spirit of individuality and integrity for the sport of snowboarding as well as a commitment to send the sport's very best athletes to the Olympics."

Forged by a task force of ski and snowboard representatives, the 18-point agreement addressed athlete eligibility, sport rules and marketing. The agreement was spelled out in a March 26, 1996 letter from the then-U.S. Skiing and Snowboard president/CEO Tim Leiweke to Ski Industries president David Ingemie.

According to the plaintiffs, the USSA breached the deal by, among other things, deciding to establish a non-Olympic U.S. snowboard team, using International Federation of Ski World Cup events as part of the Olympic team qualification, changing the methods for marketing snowboarding and the non-Olympic snowboard team and failing to involve the task force in decisions regarding snowboarding.

The defendants have moved to dismiss the suit, arguing, among other things, that the "alleged agreement" was not a binding contract, that neither Ingemie nor other plaintiffs were authorized to enter into a binding agreement on behalf of any snowboarder and that the plaintiffs have failed to exhaust administrative remedies.

With the transfer of the lawsuit from Virginia to Utah, that motion to dismiss will be the first order of business before the court.