No prize money at Olympics: Athletics

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The Independent Online
Future Olympic Games could be dramatically weakened as a result of a statement made yesterday by the International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch, writes Norman Fox from Helsinki. Samaranch said that prize money will not be made available at the Olympics in spite of pressure from the body that runs athletics, the International Amateur Athletic Federation. Primo Nebiolo, president of the IAAF, has more or less confirmed that the 1997 world athletics championships in Mexico City will offer prize money, and recently said 'the prize money problem cannot be solved by athletics alone but by all sports leaders including the IOC'. Having put the ball in Samaranch's court, Nebiolo yesterday heard the IOC president say: 'We still believe that athletes competing in the Olympic Games believe it is a privilege. It is not our intention to allow prize money.' All major athletics competitions, apart from the Olympics and, for the moment, the world championships, allow prize money. Some athletes here, including the Olympic 100m champion, Linford Christie, maintain that an Olympic title without financial reward on the day is nevertheless their key to almost unlimited funds in the future. But there are already others who take a more cynical view. Samaranch has taken a gamble with the long- term future of the most important sport to the Olympic movement. Norwegian sprinter Aham Okeke and a second, unidentified athlete have failed drugs tests on the eve of the European Championships in Helsinki. Okeke was thrown out of the championships yesterday morning after testing positive for the stimulant pseudoephedrine and faces a three-month ban from the sport. International athletics sources said later in the day that another athlete due to compete at the championships had also tested positive.

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