Donald La Vigne '88-'89 is using every means available to fight for his position on this year's United States Olympic Bobsled Team.
La Vigne, who took a year off from Harvard to train, has filed a grievance with the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and the United States Bobsled Federation because he was removed last week from his position as brakeman on USA III, the alternate four-man bobsled. Willie Gault, a wide receiver for the Chicago Bears and a world-class sprinter, has taken La Vigne's place on the team.
La Vigne is demanding to be reinstated on the U.S. team for the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary next week. "I feel that the selection criteria were not followed and that Mr. Gault did not qualify under the criteria," La Vigne said.
La Vigne said that under the bylaws of theUSOC, the committee must respond to the grievanceimmediately. He said he expects to hear from theUSOC by Tuesday, and if he does not he will file agrievance with the National Arbitration Board,whose decision will be binding.
La Vigne also has the option of suing the USOCand the Bobsled Federation for damages, but hesaid, "I have not yet decided to pursue that."
The letter of grievance, field through theBoston law firm of Nutter, McClennen and Fish,states that Gault failed to meet the selectioncriteria set forth by the Bobsled Federation. Thecomplaint maintains that Gault failed to attend aone week push clinic last fall that was mandatoryfor all bobsledders and to compete in the minimumof two Olympic trial races.
Gault raced last year at the World Cup withBrent Rushlaw, the Olympic driver for USA I, inboth the two and four-man bobsleds. The sledfinished third in that competition.
William G. Hollrock, assistant coach of theU.S. bobsled team, said, "The only way we made thedecision was on the times," adding that Gault was.13 of a second faster per push than La Vigne.
Other U.S. bobsledders have rallied to supportLa Vigne. According to La Vigne, Rushlaw and USAII driver Matt Roy have declared that they willnot accept Gault into their sleds even if asked todo so by the Federation. Under Federation rules,drivers make the final choice on the members oftheir sled teams.
Randy Will, the driver who used to race with LaVigne on USA III, said La Vigne's removal isunfortunate but that he would race with Gault ashis brakeman "just because I've come so far and solong. I've been training five years for this."
La Vigne said that he expects the Federation toattempt to put Gault into one of the top twosleds, which ordinarily are the only sleds thatrace in the Olympics. "I think it's absolutely intheir plans to do that. Now that there's a lot ofpublicity, they may balk," he said.
"It's just a question of who backs down, thedrivers or the coaches," La Vigne added.
But James F. Herberich '85, the brakeman on USAII, said he does not expect Gault to be put intoone of the top two sleds, a move that could removeHerberich from his position.
La Vigne said he remains hopeful as he waitsfor the USOC's decision on his grievance. However,Herberich said, "The team is set in stone with theInternational Olympic Committee. Unfortunately,anything that Don't will do will probably be toolate