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Olympic Support Overflows for Magic Johnson After Australian Complaints

January 24, 1992

Undated (AP) _ Calls for Australia’s basketball team to boycott Olympic games against the United States if Earvin ″Magic″ Johnson plays were met Thursday by a wave of support for Johnson, who is infected with the virus that causes AIDS.

Johnson retired in November from the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association after announcing he had contracted the virus. He has said he would still like to play for the U.S. team in the Summer Olympics, but no final decision has been made.

International basketball officials and U.S. Olympic Committee representatives said there was no health reason to keep Johnson out of the Summer Games.

″As far as we are concerned, his position with the U.S. basketball team is secure,″ said Mike Moran, a U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman.

″The risk, especially in a sport like basketball, is very, very, very low,″ said Dr. Jim Montgomery, the chief physician for the U.S. Summer Olympic team.

On Wednesday, Dr. Brian Sando, the senior medical director of the Australian Olympic Federation’s basketball program, said that Johnson presented a realistic threat of passing on the infection if he played in Barcelona.

″I would certainly recommend that our basketballers not compete with a team of which Magic Johnson was a member,″ Sando said. ″That risk you cannot absolutely say it’s never going to occur.″

Several of the Australian players agreed.

″Our official position is we would still be delighted to have Magic Johnson here,″ said Adrian Mac Liman, a spokesman for the Barcelona Olympic organizing committee. ″That hasn’t changed as far as we’re concerned.″

″Personally, I don’t share the stand of Australian officials,″ said Sandro Gamba, coach of Italy’s Olympic basketball team. ″I don’t think there is any risk in playing Magic.″

Dr. Jacques Huguet, president of the medical council of FIBA, the international basketball federation, said the chances of transmitting the virus by mixing of blood through collision is ″infinitesimal, maybe one in a million.″

″It would take a combination of incredible circumstances,″ he said in a telephone interview from his home in France.

Florian Wanninger, a spokesman for FIBA, said the organization’s central board in December decided that any player with an open wound must leave the court immediately and can only return once the bleeding has stopped.

″This regulation is quite clear,″ he said Thursday in Munich, Germany. ″I don’t think any further decision is needed.″

The NBA said Johnson could play in the All-Star game Feb. 9 after he received the fourth-highest number of votes among players in the league’s Western Conference.

″We have consulted with league medical advisers and with Magic’s doctors and have been assured that Magic’s competing in the All-Star game should not pose any health risk to Magic or the other participants,″ NBA commissioner David Stern said.

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