SI Vault
August 27, 1956
It is doubtful that fans, officials and participants in U.S. amateur sport have ever been stirred, en masse, to quite the sort of baffled indignation which was set off this month by the publication of the new Olympic amateur oath. Under its terms an Olympic Games competitor must promise to "remain" an amateur, apparently for life. Last week, as officials in Melbourne began sending pledge forms to athletes around the world, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED's James Murray, acting as a sort of surrogate for U.S. Olympic athletes, sought out Avery Brundage of Chicago, president and philosopher in chief of the International Olympic Committee, who gallantly took the stand, as follows:
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
August 27, 1956

Olympians Put Avery Brundage On The Spot

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2 3 4 5

A The answer is we don't forbid him from entering anything. We simply do not want him in the Olympic Games if he is a professional. But the question you have raised is very pertinent. That question has not been brought up before and it has not been answered. You have no idea of the ramifications of this when you have 20 different questions relating to the same rule and 20 different countries viewing it differently. Why, do you know we have been asked to rule on whether a man who drives a racing car professionally is eligible. What would you say to that?

Q He's a pro, by your definition.

A Yes, but it is argued that he is effectively a mechanic testing an engine. What then? Actually, though, the thing we are most concerned with is an athlete capitalizing on his Olympic fame.

Q What about the boy who will cynically sign the oath knowing full well he is going to turn pro? Doesn't the boy with a sense of honor get penalized unfairly because he will refuse to sign the oath?

A Fortunately or unfortunately, amateurism is a thing of the spirit. You can make a rule book 10 times as thick as the one we now have and not solve the problem. The answer is down inside the individual. It is a matter for the boy's honesty or conscience. And when institutions of higher learning have to censure themselves for not adhering to their own codes of athletics you cannot blame the boys for being bewildered. It is a question of just how much the moral standards of the whole country are affected by these abuses. But a stand has to be made somewhere, and we realize that to carry on an idealistic program in a realistic world is a tough undertaking. When that pledge is signed, the signer either intends to become a professional or he does not. All we say is that if he does then he does not belong in the Olympic Games.

Q But still, if he can run faster or jump higher than anyone else, why shouldn't he be in the Olympics?

A Because he doesn't belong there! Let him join the circus.

Q Why do you think the International Olympic Committee has the right to dictate to a young athlete what he should do with his future life?

A We have no such right. We only have the right to run the Olympic Games, and what is our business is what happens to the Olympic Games. Just because other people have warped standards is no reason why we should.

Q Did you anticipate the almost 100% negative reaction on the part of athletes, coaches, Olympic officials and fans?

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5