In its present form the amateur code makes hypocrites and cheaters out of amateur athletes. Take as an example two gymnasts at a university doing the same job. One is listed as a coach, the other as a phys ed instructor. The coach is a professional; he can't compete in amateur athletics. A "phys ed instructor" can still compete as an amateur.
Now, here's a college swimmer employed at a country club as a lifeguard. He teaches some of the members, coaches the club team. That would make him a professional by our archaic rules, so his coach tells him, "Be sure they list you as a lifeguard." In short: "Misrepresent yourself."
If all the violators of the amateur code were prosecuted, there wouldn't be an amateur left, except maybe Mr. Avery Brundage. One rule says you can't profit directly or indirectly from your sport. Ridiculous. You can't avoid it. Rowing is as pure a sport as there is but I know oarsmen use their contacts—to sell insurance, to hustle an automobile.
Rules that forbid an athlete from having sponsors are unenforceable. Peggy Fleming was a top figure skater, but without the financial support of her club she couldn't have stood the cost of competing. And her amateur success was used as a springboard to professional contracts. Almost every amateur boxer, virtually every basketball player at the Olympic level has the same idea. They're looking to cash in, and for very good reasons.
So many rules. Our Olympic Committee, according to an international rule, can't include a professional coach. We ignore it. One rule change we have submitted to the IAAF would allow a professional in one sport to compete as an amateur in another (SI, April 26). I don't think playing professional football has made Bob Hayes a faster "amateur" runner. He gets banged pretty hard.
Richie Ashburn was a fine sprinter, but he signed a baseball contract with the Phillies because the money was important to him. He gave up an Olympic career. No decision like that should be necessary. I'd like to have seen Wilt Chamberlain in the decathlon. Chuck Bednarik could have thrown the discus out of the stadium.
So many stupid rules. As a rower you can't be a boatbuilder, but it was O.K. for Phillips to have an amateur basketball team and call it the 66ers, and it's all right for people to run around with YORK BARBELLS across their chests. There's a rule that says you can play against a professional team in an exhibition without it affecting your amateur status. But if you play on a team with a professional, you become one.
Some of these rules are laid down by the international federations and we can't change them unilaterally. But we can certainly change many of our own AAU rules that are inconsistent with reality, and we are attempting to do so.
Don't misunderstand me. We have people in amateur sport who are not as pure as they profess. The Communists have their state-paid athletes, but we have our scholarships and we don't get much sympathy from countries who see us trading on these kids' athletic ability. I'm not knocking the scholarship program, I'm just saying we're inconsistent.
I don't advocate less subsidizing of athletes, I advocate more. I feel if a boss isn't generous enough to pay a man when he's competing, say, in the Olympic Games, there should be some contingency fund so the man wouldn't lose money.