It was sweet, idealistic stuff, but it was essentially shortsighted. For what those efforts did was to leave Olympic competition in a permanently crooked condition whereby the full-time pros from Iron Curtain countries developed tremendous advantages over the "amateurs" from the rest of the planet.
Brundage could never get this anomaly through his skull, but the new Olympic pragmatists understand it clearly and have acted to correct it. Pound says, "For several years now there has been a generalized recognition that there is discrimination among Olympic competitors as a result of disagreement over what a professional athlete really is. State athletes have been skewing Olympics results to a point that is absurd. If you check the 1972 and 1976 Olympic medal-winning statistics—the last time East and West athletes competed directly in the Summer Games—you will find that a disproportionately large percentage of all medals was won by state athletes. That's not right; it simply doesn't reflect the true potential of the human condition.
"There was no question in our minds that state athletes were pros. Samaranch has called them that many times in public. Professionalism has been anathema to the spirit of the Olympics for many decades, but we realized that we had reached a point where it was less a problem of professionals than it was a question of fair play.
"That, you will recall, was de Coubertin's reason for opposing pros—they were simply too good to compete against amateurs, and it would be unfair. You can actually tie in our acceptance of Olympic professionals now with the principles of the Baron in the 19th century. It wasn't fair play then, and it isn't fair play now. De Coubertin was a pragmatic man."
Fair play was a fine precept, agreeable to all, but there was still the problem of how the IOC would now define a pro—or an amateur. The IOC's Eligibility Commission, headed by West Germany's Willi Daume, has been laboring since 1981 to write an Olympic athlete's code that would lay down clear new lines and limits of eligibility vis-à-vis money. While nothing seems to be forthcoming, the new pragmatists knew that the semantic definition of Olympic professionalism was a problem that could never be solved by a frontal attack. They understood that it could only be solved by outright surrender. And that is what they did.
In short, the IOC has virtually turned its back on the responsibility of having to define precisely what kind of athletes—pro or amateur—can compete in the Olympic Games. It has turned the matter over to the international sports federations, letting them define it, with the IOC having the final say. It is unlikely, however, that they would rule an athlete ineligible who had already been approved by his or her federation. The wisdom of such strategy boggles the mind. Pound explained it like this: "We started with the proposition that all sport is under the control of the 30 or so world federations for three years and 11 months of every four years. Then, for one month, different rules—Olympic rules—are applied. This, we reasoned, is wrong. We decided it was time to apply exactly the same rules to the Olympics as are applied to other major sporting competitions around the world—the rules of the federations."
This was the needle's eye through which the Olympics' professional camel has now passed. The IOC's new philosophy of professionalism was defined succinctly last fall by Daume in Monaco at the General Association of International Sports Federations Congress. At a press conference he stated: "Eligibility rules have been outlived. In 1981 the notion 'amateur' was deleted from the Olympic Charter. In 1983 we accepted the regulations of the international federation. On the basis of careful examination, the Eligibility Commission is of the opinion that admission should be the same for both the Olympic Games and the world championship as sanctioned by the federations."
Pound puts it this way: "What we want is the world's best athletes competing in the Olympic Games. We do not want a better quality of athletes competing in a world championship than those competing in the Olympics. Professional or amateur—we want the best."
Dassler agrees with the new approach: "Pure amateur status hasn't existed for many Olympics, no matter what sport you're looking at. From the time they are children, big talents are prepared systematically, most of them fully supported whether they live in the East or the West. In principle, these are 'open professional Games,' even though there are still restrictions imposed by some federations. In my opinion the development from amateur to professional has already come to its conclusion."
Predictably, the Eastern bloc is dead against the inclusion of professionals from the West. As Wolfgang Gitter, general secretary of the Olympic Committee of East Germany, told Verschoth: "We always speak up against the admissions of professionals in the Olympic Games because we are convinced that by admitting pros, we allow all the negative influences that come with professional sports to affect the Olympic Games. No one can doubt our position."