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Olympic wrestler picked to head troubled boxing federation

June 23, 1997

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) _ Chris Campbell, a two-time Olympic wrestler who has become a vocal advocate of athletes’ rights, has been picked to head the federation that runs amateur boxing in the United States.

USA Boxing said Monday that Campbell, a labor lawyer from San Rafael, Calif., will start the new job July 14. He will be the first black executive director of an American Olympic sport.

In a telephone interview from his home, Campbell said he was excited at the prospect of helping to right a struggling federation, which produced only one gold medal _ by David Reid _ at the 1996 Olympics.

``My priority is bringing our team to No. 1 in the world, to be above Cuba, to have the athletes ready to win in Australia″ at the 2000 Summer Games, he said. ``You can make up a lot of ground in two years.″

Campbell was among seven finalists interviewed a month ago by a search commission. His appointment caps a tumultuous year for the boxing panel and places a supporter of an athlete’s right to market himself at the head of a federation that has steadfastly refused to admit professionals.

``It’s essentially about the athlete’s right to train and compete, and you can’t train to be the best in the world without financial support,″ Campbell said. ``I’ll have to study the rules and quickly learn what’s legal and what’s not. I have a hell of a lot of fund-raising to do.″

A world champion at 198 pounds in 1981, Campbell made the U.S. Olympic teams in 1980 and 1992, winning a bronze medal on his second try at the age of 37.

He has served on USA Wrestling’s board of directors, and since early this year has been chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s athletes advisory council.

David Lubs took the executive director’s job on an interim basis last year, after the federation fired Bruce Mathis. Since then, the federation has been forced to repay $1.3 million to the USOC for misappropriated Olympic grants during the tenures of Mathis and Jim Fox, his predecessor as executive director.

Despite his new job, Campbell said he would continue to study for the California bar exam, which is held in late July.

``It’s not the best way to prepare,″ he said. ``But I have too much time and money invested, and it’s something I really want to do.″

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