Sketchy Olympic team coach reinstated

An arbitration hearing clears the U.S. skeleton coach of sexual harassment charges, even though he doesn't deny making gross remarks to athletes.

Published January 24, 2006 7:37PM (EST)

The U.S. Olympic team coach who was suspended over accusations that he sexually harassed athletes got his job back Monday night when an arbitration hearing found insufficient evidence to support the charges.

The guy's name is Tim Nardiello, and he's the head coach of the U.S. skeleton team. (In case you haven't heard of it, either, skeleton involves individual competitors racing a metal sled down a long course; it wasn't an Olympic sport from 1948 to 2002, but is now on the roster.)

Nardiello was suspended after Felicia Canfield, who didn't make the Olympic team, accused him of telling athletes, "The only time I want to see your legs spread like that is if I am between them," and trying to kiss her, according to last week's issue of Time magazine. The mother of a 2002 gold medalist expressed similar complaints in a letter to the United States Bobsled and Skeleton Federation.

Digging the hole a little deeper, Nardiello's very classy lawyer told Time that his client hadn't made the "legs spread" comment in at least three years, and that Nardiello wouldn't have tried to kiss Canfield: "Never. Have you seen her?"

The USBSF said others had come forward with allegations of their own since Canfield made the charges. And they weren't exactly thrilled with Nardiello's professionalism to begin with; the organization had recently sent Nardiello a letter reprimanding him for overworking injured athletes and dating a skeleton athlete from New Zealand. But current U.S. team members vouched for their coach and asked that the suspension be overturned; the arbitrator found no evidence to support the harassment claims, and Nardiello was reinstated.

Now U.S. Olympic officials will decide whether Nardiello can coach the skeleton team at the Olympic events in Turin, Italy. Meanwhile, he'll be bringing his unique coaching style to this weeks World Cup competition in Germany.

By Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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