Norway dismisses Mueller as coach

OSLO -- Former U.S. skater Peter Mueller was fired as Norway's speedskating coach Monday, less than three months before the Winter Olympics following an accusation of sexual harassment.

The Norwegian Skating Association said the 55-year-old coach violated his contract and failed to maintain ethical standards. He has coached the team for six years in a country where the sport is widely popular.

"The governing board voted unanimously that the incident was so serious that we had no other choice than to cancel our contract with Peter Mueller ... effective immediately," association's president Vibecke Soerensen said.

Norway's speedskating team was to travel to the United States on Tuesday leading to the Vancouver Games, but the trip was postponed until Thursday. Soerensen said a replacement coach will be made before departure.

This month, Norwegian skater Maren Haugli accused Mueller of sexual harassment for an undisclosed remark he made Oct. 31 at a team breakfast in Berlin before the Speed Skating World Cup. Mueller apologized for the comment at a news conference Friday.

On Monday, he said in a statement he was "very disappointed" and denied having sexually harassed Haugli.

"I made an untoward remark about her," he said. "I made the comment in a social setting, as a joke, and I didn't think those present took it to be anything other than that."

Mueller, who earlier coached the Netherlands, is widely credited with reviving a faltering Norwegian speedskating program. He won a gold medal in the 1,000-meter event at the 1976 Innsbruck Olympics.

Mueller accused the Norwegian Skating Association of mishandling the situation and said he was denied a meeting with the association president.

He also said he was unsure on what information the decision was based, because the governing body had not provided him with details of its investigation.