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Pros in Winter Games would make little difference

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Happily, the XIV Winter Olympics are already receding into the ''ancient history'' category, so we can all forget about the luge, bobsledding, speed skating, and the biathlon for another four years. Before we do, though, let's put a few thoughts in the memory bank for use at Calgary in 1988.

First, there's the eligibility question. There was so much controversy in Sarajevo about amateurism vs. professionalism, double standards, hyprocisy, etc. , that you'd have thought this was a new issue rather than one that's been kicking around as long as the Olympics themselves.

Not that it hasn't become more of a problem in recent years. But even the ''modern'' version of the issue, complete with its Cold War overtones, is getting to be pretty old stuff itself at this point.

Of course the Russian and other Eastern European athletes are professionals by any reasonable definition of that term. Obviously it doesn't make sense that they can play while pros from other countries are barred. So what else is new?

Hockey was the sport around which all the controversy swirled at Sarajevo - but the basic problem was the same one that has existed ever since the Soviets began competing in 1956. The only new twist was that the Canadians forced the issue by bringing along players with National Hockey League affiliations. They won a partial victory when the International Olympic Committee banned some of the players in question but let others compete. They may eventually win the whole war, too, for even as the USSR was capturing another ''foregone conclusion'' gold medal, sentiment clearly was growing to solve the eligibility problem.


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