Say this for the czar of world track, Primo Nebiolo, the
controversial head of the International Amateur Athletics
Federation (IAAF): He has left large footprints. Some of them
may have been on the throats of pretty good men; certainly he
has trampled on the genteel traditions of his sport; and those
heel marks you see were dragged by Nebiolo when he refused to
acknowledge the most outrageous case of cheating in recent track
and field history. But as Nebiolo himself is fond of saying,
Those who haven't erred haven't lived.

This is an article from the July 31, 1996 issue

Imperious in style, vainglorious in nature, alternately
combative, pompous, vindictive and charmingly self-deprecating,
the 73-year-old Italian retired construction magnate is a
backroom dealmaker who since 1981 has treated the 206-nation
IAAF as a personal power base and fief. Nebiolo's expansive,
alphabet tentacles now reach from the IAAF to the inner sanctum
of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to the
International University Sports Federation (FISU) to the
Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF)
and to the International Athletic Foundation (IAF), a nest egg
of more than $20 million in a private bank in Monte Carlo that
has all the outward trappings of a slush fund.

Nebiolo regularly talks by phone to IOC president Juan Antonio
Samaranch, trying to devise ways to procure larger and larger
shares of the Olympic pie for his assorted affiliations. One of
his more recent schemes--nixed by Samaranch--was to sell
sponsorship of the bibs worn by track and field athletes at the
Atlanta Olympics to Coca-Cola for $20 million, a sum that would
have been split 50-50 between Nebiolo's IAAF and Samaranch's
IOC. Undeterred, Nebiolo continued to negotiate on behalf of
ASOIF, the organization founded at his insistence in 1983 and of
which he is president, for a share of the IOC's TOP (The Olympic
Partnership) sponsorship money. Finally, in March, Samaranch
agreed to fork over $32 million that was to be divided among the
25 summer Olympic federations, with the lion's share--$6.5
million--going to the IAAF.

Nebiolo is, by any measure, one of the most active and
influential men in the world of sport--the third point of the
so-called Latin pyramid that includes Spain's Samaranch and
Brazil's Joao Havelange, the head of FIFA, the governing body of
world soccer. Nebiolo is also one of the most criticized and
feared. "Letting Nebiolo into the IOC in 1992 was like letting
the fox in among the chickens," says one powerful IOC member,
requesting anonymity. "Nobody understands why Samaranch puts up
with him, unless it's on the theory that it's better to have
your enemies inside your tent than outside."

Other sports administrators may be more erudite, more genteel,
certainly more principled; they might outreason him, outdebate
him and stake claim to a higher moral ground. But at the end of
the day, do not bet that they'll have outflanked Nebiolo in his
insatiable reach for the power to run international sport.
"Primo looks after two things," says another IOC member. "Number
one: himself. Number two: track and field. And he's done a
terrific job. He's increased the interest in track and field all
over the world, particularly in Europe, and has made the sport
extremely rich."

Since Nebiolo took over as IAAF chief 15 years ago, the
organization's annual revenues have grown from some $250,000 to
$50 million. The IAAF's current television contract with the
European Broadcasting Union, a six-year deal that runs through
2000, is worth approximately $100 million. Before he took
control there were no sanctioned appearance fees for athletes,
no authorized bonuses for world records, no biennial Track and
Field World Championships, no Indoor World Championships, no
Cross Country World Championships, no Marathon World Cup and no
Grand Prix circuit. He has already given indications that his
IAAF will begin paying medalists prize money at the World
Championships in 1997--at the '95 championships each winner
received a Mercedes--which some IOC members are fearful is the
first step toward paying cash to medalists at the Olympic Games.

Nebiolo has skillfully overseen the transition of track and
field from an amateur to a professional sport. Venerable
athletes like 32-year-old pole vaulter Sergei Bubka and
35-year-old sprinter-long jumper Carl Lewis have kept competing
because they can make a generous living at track and field. Just
by showing up at a meet, Lewis can command $100,000. "You can't
say [Nebiolo] didn't have the courage to change," says Luciano
Barra, the Sports Director of the Italian Olympic Committee and
Nebiolo's assistant at the IAAF from 1981 to '89. "In 1982, one
year after he was elected, all the amateur regulations were
changed. Today it may look foolish, but at that time an athlete
could be suspended for life if he received more than $100.
Nebiolo spent one year lobbying the Eastern European countries,
especially the Soviet Union [to vote for appearance fees]. You
can criticize him for his style, but sometimes it's important to
reach something, not how you reach it."

But as track and field's fortunes grew throughout the '80s, so
did the excesses of Nebiolo's lifestyle and the dictatorial
nature of his leadership. (Though he now denies it, Nebiolo was
once quoted as calling himself "the god of athletics.") Before
the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Nebiolo craftily negotiated a reported
$20 million payment from the South Korean Olympic Organizing
Committee in exchange for agreeing to schedule changes in the
track and field finals to accommodate NBC, the U.S. television
rights holder. He used that money to set up the International
Athletic Foundation, which he now employs in any way he wishes
for the general betterment of track and field. For example,
Nebiolo says, he uses part of the interest to help track
programs in Third World nations. There is no public accounting
of the expenditures, and Nebiolo will neither divulge the
foundation's worth today, nor confirm that the seed money came
from the South Koreans. "These are rumors," he says coyly. "Life
is good because everyone is able to express their opinion."

However, he does say that each year the IAAF touches only the
interest generated by the foundation--still a fair chunk of
change. The extravagant IAAF annual awards dinner, a $500,000
gala held in Monte Carlo, is financed by the foundation. So were
the lavish festivities, estimated to have cost $2 million, that
Nebiolo threw in his hometown of Turin following the Grand Prix
finals there in 1992. Two years later Nebiolo also used
foundation money to finance the move of the IAAF offices from
their modest location in the Knightsbridge section of London to
Monte Carlo, where the IAAF now operates out of two elaborately
furnished villas.

The villas were leased to the IAAF by Monaco's Prince Rainier
rent-free for 30 years after the IAAF footed the bill for
renovations. The renovations, of course, were paid for by the
foundation. The IAAF also keeps a 3,600-square-foot office in
Rome that rents for $400,000 a year. Are such lavish quarters
appropriate for the international headquarters of track and
field? "This building is not important for me; it is important
for our [track and field] family," Nebiolo says, pointing out
that his position is an unpaid one. "We shouldn't be concerned
if we are criticized. We should be lauded. We haven't spent one
dollar of federation money, and we have built a house for our
family. So we think gratitude is in order."

Nebiolo's expensive taste is legendary. When he travels, which
is more than 200 days a year, he usually brings along his wife,
Giovanna, plus a press attache and his personal assistant. The
entourage nearly always flies first class or by private jet, is
met by limousine and is taken, often by police escort, to the
most luxurious hotel in the city.

Asked about Nebiolo's penchant for extravagance, Bob Fasulo, an
American who has been Nebiolo's personal assistant since 1992,
says, "I wouldn't say he has a great love of limousines as much
as he's trying to look presidential." Those around Nebiolo
generally refer to him as The President, as in: The President
can see you next Thursday. "He probably has an ego metabolism
that takes more feeding than others," LeRoy Walker, president of
the U.S. Olympic Committee, once said. But if Nebiolo likes to
carry himself like a head of state, he prefers to govern
athletics in the manner of a despot.

Consider, for example, Nebiolo's handling of an incident
involving Nicola Maggio, a fellow Italian and a racewalk judge,
at the 1993 World Championships in Stuttgart. While not as
celebrated as the cheating by long jump judges who blatantly
mismeasured a leap by Giovanni Evangelisti of Italy, thus
guaranteeing him a bronze medal at the 1987 World Championships
in Rome (Part II, in tomorrow's SI OLYMPIC DAILY), the Maggio
case similarly points out Nebiolo's disregard for scandalous
behavior--particularly when the fate of a countryman is at stake.

In the final minutes of the men's 20-kilometer walk in Rome,
Maggio violated several judging procedures and disqualified
Mexico's Daniel Garcia, who was in second place at the time.
That allowed an Italian walker, Giovanni De Benedictis, to win
the silver medal. The Race Walking Commission, chaired by Bob
Bowman of the U.S., subsequently recommended that Maggio be
suspended. "We felt in our hearts [Maggio] had probably cheated,
but we had no real proof," said one commission member.

But Nebiolo not only rebuffed the commission, saying that only
the IAAF executive council--which he controls--could suspend a
judge, but he also assigned Maggio to serve as a judge at the
World Junior Track and Field Championships. When the commission
didn't back down and insisted on a hearing, Nebiolo, according
to a source, told Bowman, "Why do you want to destroy yourself?"
Nebiolo chaired the hearing. "Primo made his presentation, and
that was that," says the source. Maggio was exonerated.

In the summer of '94, when 1,500-meter record holder Nourredine
Morceli of Algeria was quoted in the French newspaper

L'Equipe saying Nebiolo had taken care of him financially at the
World Championships in Stuttgart, Nebiolo was outraged. "For the
next seven days my time was spent inducing Morceli [through IAAF
contacts who were close to the runner] to say he was misquoted
and had nothing but respect for Nebiolo," says Chris Winner, who
spent 15 months as the IAAF's director of media and public
relations before resigning in July 1995. Morceli said he was
misquoted. "The inside of the IAAF is like a police state
without the torture," Winner says. "People are told what to do,
and they do it. Nebiolo frightens people. It makes your stomach
freeze when he decides to attack."

According to Winner, the IAAF routinely provided complimentary
travel and hotel rooms to German, Italian and Spanish
journalists as an incentive to cover IAAF meetings and say
favorable things about Nebiolo. "I'd get calls from Nebiolo's
office in Rome telling me to take care of a certain journalist
and his wife with plane fare and accommodations for a week
somewhere or another," Winner says. Another part of his job,
Winner says, was to inflate the numbers of athletes at Grand
Prix events as well as the attendance figures and the numbers of
countries participating and watching on television. "If there
were going to be 100 athletes, we'd triple it," Winner says. "If
12 nations were seeing it live and 35 on tape delay, all of a
sudden it would be 100 countries and 200 million people. There
was a desperate effort to impress the U.S. television networks."

Winner also says that the elections of the annual IAAF Male and
Female Athletes of the Year were occasionally rigged at
Nebiolo's whims. "After the ballots had been counted in 1994,
Nebiolo called my office to find out who'd won," he says. "I
told him Morceli had won among the men, barely beating out
[British hurdler] Colin Jackson. He asked about the women, and I
said that Sally Gunnell, the British hurdler, had easily won for
the second year in a row over [U.S. heptathlete] Jackie
Joyner-Kersee. 'Are you sure?' he asked. 'How can this be? Maybe
some of the ballots haven't come in yet. You never know.' I
later got a call from one of his assistants saying not to make
any announcements. Then I got a packet from Rome that contained
23 ballots, all with Jackie Joyner-Kersee's name on them. It was
just enough to put her over the top. When the announcement was
finally made, Gunnell had been dropped all the way to fifth.
Colin Jackson was dropped to fourth. It was all based on who
could be at the awards dinner. It was a shameful episode. I was
privy to fraud and didn't do anything about it."

Fasulo declares these numerous accounts by Winner as "laughable."

Nebiolo's power within the IAAF is virtually unchecked by the
organization's 26-member executive council. "If Primo wants
something done, it's pretty tough to stop him," admits Ollan
Cassell, head of USA Track and a vice president on the executive
council. "If you challenge him, there's going to be a lot of
challenges back your way."

Nebiolo personally selects the site of the biennial World
Championships (the executive council rubber-stamps his
recommendation), and the power to award a city this competition,
second only to the Olympics in prestige, obviously gives him
tremendous bargaining leverage, which he uses to personal
advantage. "It is true he likes the World Championships to go to
a country where he has a very good relationship with the
president in power," says one former associate. "He loves to be
received like a king. Also, the World University Games are
awarded to universities that are eager to bestow a degree upon
him. He has a page of these things. It's silly."

Burt Flickinger, who was head of the organizing committee that
brought the World University Games to Buffalo in 1993, recalls
that "after we'd been awarded the Games, [Nebiolo] asked me if I
had any connections with local colleges, saying that he'd like
to get a degree." Flickinger was on the board of Canisius
College, which subsequently was pleased to honor Nebiolo with a
doctorate of humane letters, honoris causa.

Those who know him chuckle at such examples of Nebiolo's
self-exaltation. "Primo is the only man I have ever met who
cannot be insulted," says one fellow IOC member, who, like so
many of the people who work with Nebiolo, does not wish to be
identified. "He has a skin like an elephant. If someone said to
me, 'You are an idiot,' I would think about it. If you say to
Primo Nebiolo, 'You are an idiot,' Primo wouldn't even care."

To Nebiolo, who can speak five languages (Italian, French,
English, Spanish and Portuguese), words are best used to convey
leverage. Leverage is power. Money is power. Primo Nebiolo is,
above all else, a man who understands power: how to get it and
how to keep it. "He's a total control guy and very paranoid,"
says one IAAF committee member who is close to Nebiolo. "He's
convinced everyone is against him. Even the people who are
subservient to him, he'll eventually come down on. I'm not sure
he's got a friend in the world."

TOMORROW: Nebiolo's rise to power, the Evangelisti scandal that
almost brought him down and the IOC role he still covets.

COLOR PHOTOCOVER PHOTOTHE DICTATOR WHO RUNS TRACK AND FIELD: PRIMO NEBIOLO [Primo Nebiolo and Fidel Castro watching sports event]TWO COLOR PHOTOS: LANE STEWART (2) At IAAF headquarters in Monaco, Nebiolo greets visitors in the royal splendor of his office. [Primo Nebiolo; view of International Amateur Athletics Federation headquarters]COLOR PHOTO: HEINZ KLUETMEIER Nebiolo did the honors after Linford Christie won the gold in the 100 meters in Barcelona. [Primo Nebiolo putting medal on Linford Christie] COLOR PHOTO: ANDY HAYT A packet of ballots from Rome put Joyner-Kersee (right) over the top for 1994 Athlete of the Year, instead of Gunnell. [Jackie Joyner-Kersee]COLOR PHOTO: SIMON BRUTY/ALLSPORT [See caption above--Sally Gunnell]COLOR PHOTO: LANE STEWART At his estate in Rome, with Giovanna, Nebiolo has a pet project other than track and field. [Primo Nebiolo and Giovanna Nebiolo with two dogs]