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Athletes Defend Olympic Ideal

February 4, 1999

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) _ Olympic athletes are standing firm in their support for a minimum two-year ban for competitors who take performance-enhancing drugs.

On the second day of the world doping summit, the athletes also offered support for embattled IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch and said they did not want to see their achievements tarnished by the corruption scandals.

The athletes said a minimum two-year ban for serious drug offenses was proper, despite concerns in some sports about the impact that would have on athletes’ livelihoods.

``The athletes are role models,″ said Norwegian speed skater Olav Koss, a triple gold medalist.

``They are looked upon by kids around the world. Taking two years off work is nothing compared to 10 or 15 years out of the lives of young people around the world. They have to take the responsibility.″

If sports that are primarily professional, such as soccer and cycling, can’t accept the sanctions, then there is no place for them in the Olympic Games, German athlete Roland Baar said.

``If football or whoever else cannot accept the rules of the IOC, then they shouldn’t be a part of the IOC anymore,″ he said.

``We should be honest. Is football that important at the Olympic Games?″

The athletes said they are behind a move by the IOC to change the Olympic oath to include a statement that they used ethical means in their training.

They also supported the idea of an Olympic `passport’ in which they would accept the principles of antidoping before they could compete in the Olympic Games.

In the light of continuing reports about IOC members taking bribes for their votes, members of the IOC athletes’ commission said they supported Samaranch and the work the IOC is doing to root out corruption.

``We support his work, and believe it will lead to the re-establishment of the credibility and trust in the International Olympic Committee and the entire Olympic Movement,″ they said in a declaration.

Robert Ctvrtlik, Olympic gold medalist in volleyball, said the scandal should not reflect on the event itself or on the commitment of the athletes.

``I was training four to six hours a day for 12 years. You leave your body on the court half the time,″ he said.

``You give everything you have and I think that’s what the Olympics encompasses. Of course, there might be some crooks, you have to clean it up, but I don’t think it’s fair to blame the athletes and tarnish their medals and their dedication and their sacrifice because some people want to take money.

``We are still very proud of our medals,″ he added.

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