By Nick Butler

Problems engulfing US speedskating following the dismal performance at Sochi 2014 have taken another turn for the worse ©USSpeedskatingProblems engulfing US Speed Skating have taken another turn for the worse after a letter, sent by a five-person group, highlighted a series of concerns before requesting a hearing with the governing body's grievance committee.

In particular the letter, signed by, among others, four time Olympian and former 3,000 metres world record holder turned national team coach Nancy Swider-Peltz, lambasts the disappointing results of the United States team at Sochi 2014.

This followed the long track team failing to win a medal for the first time since Sarajevo 1984 and the short track squad managing just a solitary silver medal in the men's 5,000m relay.

The failures were attributed to "a lack of financial and organisational transparency within the governing body and conflicts of interest with the recent election of a member of the Board of Directors", as well as the failure to set up a new programme providing direct financial support to qualified athletes, despite this being something they had allegedly agreed to do.

An over-reliance on high-altitude training, the last-minute introduction of new Under Armour suits, a failure to analyse the skaters' needs leading up to the Games, and interference with independent coaches, such as Swider-Peltz, are also highlighted.

In response, US Speed Skating executive director Ted Morris was quoted in the Chicago Tribune as claiming they "do not feel the allegations are valid", but are "looking forward to the due process of getting this in front of our judicial committee".

It comes after much internal and external criticism in recent weeks following the Winter Olympic disappointment, where the US were targeting seven or eight medals in long track events but were utterly swept aside as the Netherlands won eight of the 12 titles available.

Heather Richardson was the best US performer in long track speed skating in Sochi, but she only managed two seventh-place finishes ©Getty ImagesHeather Richardson was the best US performer in long track speed skating in Sochi, but she only managed two seventh-place finishes ©Getty Images

This decline was best epitomised by the plight of four-time medallist, and 1,000m champion in Turin and Vancouver, Shani Davis, who finished only eighth over 1,000m and 24th over 500m.

Following the disappointment, various members of the team blamed new Under Armour suits, which were introduced shortly before the Games, for their slow times, with an internal assessment released earlier this month concluding they did contribute to the poor showing.

This was particularly because the team had not worn the suits in the build-up to the Games, so were unused to them, while the actual benefit of the suits was unknown.

The report also blamed the squad pre-Olympic training camp in Italy, which took place at a high altitude outdoor rink and was therefore seen as poor preparation for the indoor, sea level rink in Sochi.

Since the Games there have also been a series of changes in senior coaching staff, with Ryan Shimabukuro, a former speed skater from Hawaii who led the team to a total of 195 international medals during 12 years as head coach, announcing his resignation.

This followed the departure of Finn Halvorsen as high-performance director, Kip Carpenter as national all-around coach, and Stephen Gough as head national team coach of the short track squad.

Although the criticism has only reached boiling point since Sochi 2014, there have also been longer term controversies involving the governing body.

In July 2013, a settlement was reached between US Speed Skating and a group of short track competitors after a skate tampering scandal and allegations of physical and emotional abuse by coaches.

Last year, Andrew Gabel also resigned as US Speed Skating Board member after claims he engaged in improper sexual relationships with two underage athletes during the 1990s.

Gabel, who competed at four Winter Olympics between Calgary 1988 and Nagano 1998 and won a 5,000m relay bronze at Lillehammer 1994 before serving as President from 2002 until 2006, has not been publicly criticised any further by the governing body, despite an internal investigation being completed in March.

The letter also calls for further punishments for Gabel, including his removal from the US Speed Skating Hall of Fame.

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