Skater's death a mystery

LOS ANGELES -- Christopher Bowman soared to the heights as U.S. figure skating champion. He crashed off the ice, though, ending up dead on the floor of a cheap motel room 1½ months after being arrested for misdemeanor theft.

The 40-year-old skater's death initially was reported as a possible drug overdose, but "we don't have anything that points specifically" to that as the cause, assistant chief Ed Winter of the coroner's office said Friday.

Investigators also were considering his death Thursday was the result of an accident or natural causes. The two-time Olympian was 6 feet and weighed about 300 pounds. "There was some prescription medication present" at the scene but no evidence of illegal drugs, Winter said.

Bowman's body was found by a male friend who had shared his $55-per-night room at the Budget Inn in the hardscrabble North Hills area of the San Fernando Valley. An autopsy was to be done this weekend.

Bowman battled drug problems, and underwent treatment at least twice -- once before the 1988 Olympics and then again after the Albertville Games in 1992. He was an admitted cocaine addict.

The skater was alternately nicknamed "Bowman the Showman" for his flair on the ice and "Hans Brinker from Hell" for his hard partying and lack of discipline in training.

Bowman won the U.S. men's figure skating titles in 1989 and 1992, and was runner-up in 1987 and 1991. He won a silver medal at the 1989 worlds and a bronze in 1990. He finished seventh in the 1988 Olympics and fourth in 1992.

"If I had to pick the three most talented skaters of all time, I would pick Christopher as one," Brian Boitano, the 1988 Olympic champion, told the Chicago Tribune. "He had natural charisma, natural athleticism, he could turn on a crowd in a matter of seconds and he always seemed so relaxed about it."

Born in Hollywood, Bowman had a part in the TV series "Little House on the Prairie" for one season and appeared in dozens of commercials. He got into coaching after his skating career ended, and lived in the Detroit area from 1995 until last February. Recently he'd returned to acting and plays an assistant coach in Brian De Palma upcoming movie "Down and Distance" with Gary Busey.

Bowman had a daughter with his ex-wife, Annette Bowman.


Jean-Baptiste Grange of France used a strong slalom leg to win a World Cup super-combi in Wengen, Switzerland, ahead of Daniel Albrecht of Switzerland and Bode Miller of the U.S.

Grange finished 27th in the downhill leg, but had the fastest slalom race of the day. His combined time was 2 minutes, 20.61 seconds, Albrecht's 2:20.67 and Miller's 2:21.12. "Today I was engaged in the course," Miller said. "My mind was working."


Major League Baseball launched a department of investigations Friday, a permanent branch of the commissioner's office responsible for looking into drug use in the sport. MLB is establishing a tip line for team employees to make the commissioner's office aware of violations of drug, betting and other rules. ... Free agent outfielder Emil Brown, 33, and the Oakland A's agreed to a one-year, $1.45 million deal. Brown spent the last three seasons with Kansas City, hitting .257 with six homers and a team-leading 62 RBIs in 113 games last season. ... Former Cardinals GM Walt Jocketty was hired by the Reds as a special adviser to chief executive Bob Castellini. Jocketty left the Cards after 13 seasons.

College Football

Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart will pass up his senior season and enter the NFL draft. The junior ran for a school-record 1,722 yards, averaging 132.5 yards a game. ... Purdue coach Joe Tiller will retire after next season and be replaced by new associate head coach Danny Hope.