Harding's prospects 'grim,' official says

January 16, 1994|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Tonya Harding's chances of competing at the Winter Olympics "are pretty grim," the president of the U.S. Figure Skating Association said yesterday.

"It may be a rolling stone that rolls right over her," Claire Ferguson, president of the USFSA told the Associated Press.

In another development, a new witness accused Ms. Harding's ex-husband, Jeff Gillooly, of being the mastermind behind the Jan. 6 attack on Nancy Kerrigan.

Sarah Bergman, a classmate of Shawn Eric Eckardt, Ms. Harding's bodyguard, told Portland Portland TV station KTAI that Mr. Gillooly was involved in the plot to club Ms. Kerrigan.

Mr. Eckardt, accused hitman Shane Minoaka Stant and Derrick Brian Smith, the reputed getaway driver, already face second-degree felony charges in Portland.

Ms. Bergman, 20, quotes Mr. Eckardt as saying, "Jeff Gillooly wants me to set it up so that Tonya can win the Olympics, and they were going to break her legs."

Gary Crowe, the investigator who first revealed the alleged plot, told the Associated Press that Ms. Bergman was in Mr. Eckardt's house when a plan was discussed to "get Kerrigan" in Detroit.

Mr. Crowe said Ms. Bergman was told by Mr. Eckardt that the person on the telephone was Mr. Gillooly. And, Mr. Crowe said, Mr. Eckardt also told her that Mr. Gillooly was doing it as a way to get back into Ms. Harding's favor after their divorce last year.

The investigation has clouded Ms. Harding's skating career. And now she could be thrown off the Olympic team, even if she is not indicted.

Until Jan. 31, Ms. Harding's Olympic status will be controlled by the skating federation and its 45-member international competition committee. After that, the USOC sets the rosters.

"If she is not implicated, we would have to look very closely at that and decide whether any action is warranted," Mrs. Ferguson said.

U.S. Olympic Committee President Leroy Walker issued a statement that indicated his organization was ready to move quickly in the event Ms. Harding faced legal charges.

"We are concerned about issues of sportsmanship as well as the potential disruptive elements within the U.S. delegation at the Games," he said.

Michelle Kwan, second at the recent U.S. championships, continued to train and remain available to skate at the Olympics.

Ms. Harding and ex-husband Jeff Gillooly emerged in public, driving away from their home in Beavercreek.

They continued to express their innocence in the case.

"It's been a long week," Ms. Harding said. "But we're doing OK."

Said Mr. Gillooly: "We can't talk about the specifics. And we're just as anxious to talk to you guys as you are to us. There will be more in a few days."

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