OSAKA — The head of the U.S. Olympians Association said here Wednesday that he is satisfied with International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, but added it is still too early to tell whether the IOC will reform itself.
Speaking at Osaka City University, John Naber said that Rogge, who replaced longtime IOC head Juan Antonio Samaranch last July, impressed him at the Salt Lake City Olympics in February.
Naber, who won four gold medals in swimming at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal and later became a critic of the IOC’s lack of public accountability, was visiting the city at the invitation of the Osaka Municipal Government. He now works as a motivational speaker in Pasadena, Calif.
“Jacques Rogge is a former Olympic athlete,” Naber said. “After the figure skating scandal erupted, he took quick action to reach a compromise solution, which implied he has a strong sense of responsibility. And that is good news for the Olympic movement.”
Naber said the invasion of money into the Olympics is encouraging athletes and judges to cheat.
“The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics were a turning point,” he said. “When I competed in 1976, there were 300 sponsors. But, by 1984, the list had shrunk to 33, making sponsorship an exclusive club.
“The Olympics became heavily commercialized and Olympic athletes were given contracts. Now, when they compete, it’s not just a gold medal that’s on the line; it’s prize money offered by the sponsors, money they will only collect if they get the medal.”
Noting that companies like Coca Cola pay $40 million for a four-year sponsorship deal, Naber, who testified in Congress against the excesses of the IOC during the Salt Lake City bribery scandal, said that while he supports the right of an athlete to be compensated by a sponsor, the money involved in the Olympic movement has gotten out of hand.
“The IOC has enacted some reforms,” he said. “But it’s still too early to tell if the reforms will take hold.”
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