Volleyball andbasketball are American inventions that have spread round the world. TheRussians don't even claim to have discovered them. They have been contentmerely to beat us in world championship matches in both sports. Our defeats arethe product of smugness and indifference that amounts to internationaldiscourtesy.
For more than 25years the U.S. has had a Good Neighbor policy designed to cultivate thefriendship of Latin American countries. And how does it work as far as sportsare concerned? Last year we sent inferior basketball players to worldchampionship matches in Chile and got the beating we deserved. Last week ourvolleyball players suffered humiliating defeats to Iron Curtain nations andothers in Rio de Janeiro.
The men and womenwho went to Brazil to represent the U.S. had insufficient practice and money.So short of cash were the boys of our Los Angeles Westside Jewish CommunityCenter and the girls of our Santa Monica Mariners—both champions of thiscountry—that the men could only begin to train as a team in the middle ofSeptember; the Russians started training six days a week 10 hours a day lastFebruary. Our girls had to sell tickets to exhibition matches to their friends,buy their own uniforms and pay their own fare to Rio. The State Departmentrefused help; businessmen were uninterested. Two fine players on the men's teamcouldn't raise enough money to get to Rio at all. Nikita Khrushchev paid thefare for the Iron Curtain teams and gave them plenty of pocket money.
Once in Brazilour players couldn't afford their own kind of food or mineral water, so theysuffered from dysentery. They had to stay in free quarters, concrete cells withthree-tiered bunks in the stadium, and eat free meals at the stadium mess. TheRussians lived in the best hotels, isolated as usual, but clearly the battingand volleying delegates of a first-rate power.
The privationssuffered by athletes are not described here as alibis for our losses. We mighthave lost anyway. They are cited for what they truly are: indictments of ourGovernment and people. We did not give our men and women a chance, and we werediscourteous in sending insufficiently trained and badly equipped players tocompete in games in which our host nations take a vital interest. If, in thefuture, we don't want to support our athletes, we should not have theeffrontery to compete.
KEEP AWAY FROMTHAT DRUGSTORE
Doctors andscientists take a coolly balanced view of the use of drugs by athletes, asGeorge Walsh reports on page 27. Our own feelings are stronger. We thinkathletes should compete without the help of stimulants or tranquilizers.
Both types ofdrugs are too generally used and too easily obtained. A runner, swimmer,tennis, basketball or football player with a will to win can send money to awholesaler or a jobber and get all he wants. It is the responsibility oflegislators to cut off this indiscriminate source of supply. It is theresponsibility of coaches and trainers to do their utmost to keep drugs awayfrom athletes.
Some of thosecommenting on the widespread use of drugs in sports in recent years make thedistinction between amateurs and pros. They say a pro has a living to make andis entitled to employ any means to earn it by winning. We say this is nonsense.All drugs should be banned from all sports. The National Collegiate AthleticAssociation and other amateur sports organizations should take a firm stand onthis important matter; so should the pro sports associations.
It is argued thatthe caffeine in a cup of coffee and the spinach on a blue plate dinner can givepep. That isn't what we mean, and coffee or spinach doesn't win medals ormoney. We mean drugs, and everybody in sports knows which they are. Individualsand teams should rely on skill and practice rather than on Benzedrine andcocaine.