SWIMNEWS ONLINE: September 1997 Magazine Articles

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The Amateur Rules Were Strict


Cecil M. Colwin

No one was allowed to compete, coach, or officiate for money. Neither could you demand or receive excessive or improper expenses. Selling or pawning prizes were also against the amateur laws.

No amateur could compete against professionals, participate in radio or television broadcasts that advertised any product, capitalize on athletic fame by endorsing products, or sell or solicit the sale of sporting goods, prizes, trophies, etc., used chiefly in connection with sports.

Reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses, incurred while travelling, was limited to a few dollars per day. Not long ago, there was a rule that restricted travelling to swim meets outside of oneÕs country, apart from major international games, to 30 days in any one year.

From the beginning of the modern Olympic Games, a continuous and well-policed effort tried to stem the tide of professionalism. Prior to the Games, each national body was required to certify on a special form, countersigned by the National Olympic Committee, that each competitor was an amateur. Each athlete had to sign a personal declaration that one had never been a professional in any sport.

The great all-round athlete, Jim Thorpe lost his amateur status and forfeited the Olympic medal he won in Stockholm in 1912, because he admitted having played professional football. Other great athletes deprived of their amateur status based upon proof of having demanded or accepted payment in the guise of grossly excessive "expenses" were Paavo Nurmi of Finland, Jules Ladoumege of France, Gunder Hagg and Arne Andersson of Sweden, and Wess Santee of the United States. The latterÕs attempt, by court action, to enjoin the Amateur Athletic Union from enforcing its rules pertaining to amateurism was emphatically rejected by the Supreme Court of the state of New York, on May 15, 1956.

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