Financial troubles, administrative chaos and diminished accountability to its membership should cost taekwondo’s national governing body its certification with the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the boss of the Colorado Springs-based organization that runs the combat sport should resign his six-figure post, according to a complaint by a taekwondo referee.
USA Taekwondo has violated the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act that sets the code for NGBs, and it’s also in violation of USOC bylaws, as well as its own bylaws, under the “wrongful and heavy-handed actions” of chief executive officer David Askinas, alleges Bernard Robinson in a 22-page grievance filed last month with the NGB.
A referee the past 25 years, Robinson, of Chesterfield, Va., wrote to the USA Taekwondo judicial committee that the NGB “no longer fulfills its mission” and “no longer meets the requirements” to justify sanctioning from the USOC, accusing the NGB of evolving “into the personal fiefdom” of Askinas, who operates USA Taekwondo “as his private club.”
USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky declined comment on USA Taekwondo’s standing. Askinas disputed the accusations, saying they’re the product of former USA Taekwondo chair Ronda Sweet, whose membership has been terminated by the NGB because of what Askinas dubbed “false accusations repeatedly against good people in this organization. … The allegations in Robinson’s complaint are completely without substance.”
The seven-person USA Taekwondo board, which includes former USOC president Marty Mankamyer of the Springs, contains “self-interested” members, Robinson writes, and the NGB exists mainly “to serve a few insiders whose primary allegiance is to create benefits for themselves, to the exclusion of the membership and athletes it is supposed to serve.”
Robinson bemoaned a dip in membership, a lack of athlete development and a disregard for strengthening coach and referee pipelines, and he wrote that competitors are “kept in the dark with respect to (USA Taekwondo) decisions and athlete programs.” He criticized the NGB for dissolving its nominating and governance committee, the group for which he was removed as chairman, and for bylaw changes “without the necessary votes required.”
A slew of what Robinson called “financial shenanigans” have crippled USA Taekwondo, which closed 2009 with $397,282 in net assets, according to its latest audit, in July. The NGB, with $342,599 in USOC funding in 2009, maintains sloppy recordkeeping, doesn’t have an established travel policy for staffers and misspends USOC grants, Robinson said, even insisting the situation once was so dire, employees’ retirement accounts were raided.
For most of his five-plus years at the helm, Askinas, with total compensation of $146,566 in 2009, has ensured “CEO-favored candidates are elected” to board positions, Robinson wrote, in an attempt “to systematically exclude and suppress independent-minded voices critical of his management and dominance of the board.” In short, behind Askinas, USA Taekwondo can’t “move forward and function in any effective way,” Robinson said.
Robinson accused Askinas of showing an “unwelcoming attitude” toward female athletes and volunteer administrators, illustrated by “insensitive, crude, demeaning and offensive language, including language derogatory of women.” He said the NGB doesn’t “provide equitable support and encouragement for participation by women,” noting that disparities among male and female fighters are defended by the belief “taekwondo is a man’s sport.”
USA Taekwondo board candidate Herb Perez said Robinson’s accusations aren’t “backed up by any facts. I would be surprised if Bernard’s complaint survives a motion to dismiss because it’s so nonsense. I don’t think it gets past that level. It doesn’t make the grade.”
“When you look at our record,” Askinas added, “our event participation is increasing, our athlete pipeline is getting better, our membership is growing. This is Ronda’s theories on why she should still be in charge.” About the call for his resignation, he said, “The board has the authority to hire and fire CEOs … and there has been no request. I think they like the progress we’re making. I have no intention to resign on the basis of false allegations.”