Herschel Walker, footballer-turned-bobsledder, was benched Wednesday by his United States team at the Winter Olympics.
Randy Will, driver of the No. 1 American four-man sled, picked roommate Chris Coleman to replace the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner.
"We give the driver a lot of input," said team leader Jim Hickey, "and after looking at our training times, Will said he would feel more comfortable with Coleman as his brakeman."
Walker, a Minnesota Vikings running back who turns 30 in two weeks, is the most identifiable person among 123 U.S. athletes in the French Alps for 15 days of competition.
He took the decision in stride but was upset at what he considered a behind-the-scenes ploy.
"They made the decision last week," said the 220-pound Walker. "They knew about it, but they didn't seem to have the guts to tell me. "Ever since I have been around, he (Will) seems to have wanted to have Chris in his sled. But I think my result in the two-man with Brian (Shimer of Naples, seventh place) was good. This is just the way it goes.
"I'm disappointed, but I will continue to support our U.S. bobsled team. I'm hoping we win a medal. I am a competitive man, and I always endorse putting the best team possible on the field."
Competition is Friday and Saturday.
"Herschel was more than capable of doing the job," said John Philbin, coach of the U.S. bobsled team. "This decision was made totally based on advice of the driver. He and Coleman have competed together for some time."
Controversy and politics have long stalked U.S. bobsledders, who last won an Olympic medal with a 1956 bronze and haven't taken the gold since 1936. When Walker qualified, the 177-pound Coleman was bumped from Will's sled.
"Herschel Walker is probably the most incredible athlete I've met in my life," Will said Wednesday, "but you can't tear apart a successful team to put on someone with such limited experience as Herschel."
Two days before bouncing Walker, Hickey had gushed about Herschel and his three sledmates.
"I'm looking forward to the four-man competition because our No.
1 team is unbeatable," Hickey said. "I'm expecting a medal _ the gold."
Training runs deteriorated slightly Wednesday, and Will made his move on behalf of Coleman. Hickey bought it, and the former University of Georgia football hero was off the team.
"This is nothing against Herschel Walker or professional athletes," said the 27-year-old Will, a muffin baker from Endwell, N.Y. "I'm going with what's best for everyone, not just for me or Chris, but what's best for the United States."
_ Wire reports were used in this report.