Magazine article American Banker

While the Runners Go for the Medals, Colorado Bank Looks after Their Gold: Boulder Institution Holds Trust Funds for Hundreds of Top 'Amateurs.' (Bank of Boulder)

Magazine article American Banker

While the Runners Go for the Medals, Colorado Bank Looks after Their Gold: Boulder Institution Holds Trust Funds for Hundreds of Top 'Amateurs.' (Bank of Boulder)

Article excerpt

While the Runners Go for the Medals, Colorado Bank Looks After Their Gold

Boulder Institution Holds Trust Funds for Hundreds of Top "Amateurs'

Colorado banker Steve Bosley had a particularly keen interest in the men's 10,000-meter race at the Olympics this week. Almost half the field that qualified for Olympic competition in the 10,000, including all three Americans and more than 20 runners altogether, have accounts at his bank in Boulder.

That's because Mr. Bosley and the Bank of Boulder, of which he is president, helped initiate the trust-fund system that allows top track and field athletes to retain their amateur standing while making a living at their sport. Basically, athletes deposit their earnings from competition, product endorsements, and personal appearances into a trust fund administered by a bank, then make withdrawals for training or living expenses.

The funds are called "TACtrusts' because they are monitored by the Althletics Congress (TAC), which, as the national governing body for road racing, cross country, and track and field, determines what training and living expenses are allowable.

More bluntly, the TACtrusts are a compromise between the old ideals of amateur sport and contemporary reality.

Alvin Chriss, a New York attorney who administers the program for TAC, explained that Eastern and Western Europe had different approaches to sport when the modern Olympic movement began about the the turn of the century. In England, rules for amateur sport carefully prohibited the sons of the aristocracy from competing against those of the working class--a famous example being the barring of Grace Kelly's father from rowing in the Henley Regatta because he was once a bricklayer.

In Eastern Europe, however, the emphasis on sport was tied to improving a nation's youth for military service. Even today, Mr. Chriss said, the Soviet KGB sponsors some of that country's best teams, and also earns substantial income from operating factories that produce sports equipment.

That difference helped lead to the contrast between East and West in the post-World War II Olympics, when Western athletes were handicapped in competition against state-supported Eastern bloc athletes. Pressures for change built up on the Amateur Athletic Union, which had governed most Olympic sports in this country since the early 1900s.

The Amateur Sports Act of 1978 changed the system, authorizing for each sport a separate national federation that works directly with the U.S. Olympic Committee and with the international federation in that sport.

The newly created TAC immediately faced the problem of how to deal with athletes accepting money. The jogging craze and the rising popularity of road racing had created a new industry, and corporate sponsors were eager to pay world-class runners to endorse products or compete in races. Runners welcomed the money and needed it to continue their rigorous training regimens, but they

had to take it under the table to avoid jeopardizing their amateur status.

Frank Shorter, the 1972 Olympic gold-medalist in the marathon, had pushed back the barriers earlier by getting the international federation to allow him to open a store for running gear in Boulder without losing his amateur status. By 1980 and 1981, Mr. Chriss recalled, Mr. Shorter, Boston marathon champion Bill Rodgers, and a small horde of other runners were openly defying the ban against accepting money.

The problem was multiplied by the Olympic "contamination' rule, which held that any athlete who competed against a professional lost his or her own amateur standing. Technically, if one racer accepted money and then ran in a road race with thousands of entries, the entire field would lose its amateur status.

With that in mind, Mr. Bosley said, Mr. Shorter, fellow runner Herb Lindsay, and attorney Bob Stone, all of Boulder, "put their heads together to find a way for athletes to take money but not have constructive receipt of it. …

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