Crackdown on Athlete "Journalists." (by the International Olympic Committee)

Article excerpt

Hoopster and huckster Charles Barkley has put his byline on hold-- at the insistence of the International Olympic Committee.

The IOC--in a crackdown on marquee Olympic athletes who write about the games for big newspapers in violation of IOC rules--enforced the rules against B arkiey, whose commentary was running in USA Today, and track star Carl Lewis, whose byline was running in several European publications and who appeared in television commercials. Neither was being paid.

The rule prohibits Olympic contestants from acting as journalists during the games.

After an unnamed magazine complained, the IOC ordered the U.S. Olympic Committee to enforce the rule. The USOC informed Barkley and Lewis and the publications, and a settlement was worked out whereby the format of their work changed.

In the case of Barkley, instead of writing a bylined, first-person column, he was interviewed by a staffer, who wrote the story.

"It isn't like PattiSue Plumer doing a hometown diary for the San Jose Mercury News," USOC spokesman Mike Moran said.

However, the IOC continued its policy of allowing athletes to write diaries or columns for their "hometown" papers.

Moran said that Lewis was writing for three major "mass-circulation" European publications and was doing tv commercials for his daily column in El Periodico, a Spanish sports daily. Barkley's column appeared in Barcelona in the international edition of USA Today, the nationwide U.S. paper selling close to 2 million copies daily.

IOC rules say that "under no circumstances" may an Olympic athlete "act as a journalist or in any other media capacity" during the games.

The enforcement leaves superstar athletes in the position of being paid millions of dollars a year to play sports and endorse products but unable to write what they see at the Olympics if their work appears in some of the more visible publications during the games.

Moran said he personally did not understand the rule against reporting, in light of the fortunes athletes make in sports and endorsements, but the USOC was required to follow IOC rules.

"I personally don't know what the rule means, but they are telling us to enforce it," he said. …