Olympics should be for amateurs
February 21, 2003
Olympic athletes today have little resemblance to those who played in ancient Greece. And that is a shame.
There was a time when Olympians represented the best amateur athletes a country had to offer. They trained for years with no monetary reward. They sacrificed in ways most of us can never imagine. It was reward enough to make it to the Games — a medal was often too much to even dream about.
This week’s headlines touted Team USA’s 2004 basketball roster being filled with the likes of Sacramento Kings guard Mike Bibby. Bibby is undeniably a fantastic basketball player, but why is he, and all the other professional players, on an Olympic squad?
We know this issue is not new. Years ago we had the Dream Team led by Michael Jordan. Professional tennis, baseball and hockey players have competed for gold. And these are not the only sports where professionals have replaced amateurs.
We wonder why this ever had to happen. It is documented that Eastern European athletes were cultivated at an early age to be Olympic stars. Their governments rewarded them handsomely. Drugs were often involved to make them bigger and stronger in unnatural ways.
The United States was critical of these countries for creating an uneven playing field. Now the U.S. has a black eye. For the past several Olympics the United States has put professionals on various Winter and Summer teams.
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Is winning the most medals so important that we have obliterated the true meaning of the Olympics? Two Olympics have been ruined because of political boycotts — one by Russia, the other by the United States. Now we are ruining them with professionals.
The United States boasts of being a world leader. Now is the time for it to lead by example. It is time for our Olympic athletes to come from the amateur ranks.
Let the sportsmen at the college level fill the rosters. Let anyone but a professional be an Olympian.
The athletes who competed at Heavenly Ski Resort last week are a testament to true sportsmanship. These Special Olympians embody the ideals that Olympians without special needs once held.
It is unfortunate with the Olympics returning to Greece next year that we are unable to restore the Games to their original form when they were first played in Olympia. Nonetheless, the United States Olympic Committee should re-examine its policy toward allowing professionals to compete. It should initiate a mandate with the International Olympic Committee to re-establish the Olympics as a competition between amateur athletes throughout the world.
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