Professional and Amateur Athletes In Olympics

Alex OvechkinThere have always been debates over the notion of having professional athletes in the Olympics compared to amateur athletes. Many feel it’s an unfair advantage towards the amateurs. One argument was when the Olympics started in 776 BC; it was for the amateur athlete. In the definition of the word “athlete” it states; A person that competes in a sport for a prize. Others think that since you are ‘professional’ that means you have extra time to train and prepare for your sport compared to amateurs.

I feel if you are born in a country, you have the right to represent your country. How can you fault someone for being better than most in a certain sport? That is like telling a heart surgeon that he is too good at his job, and he is not allowed because of his skill level to perform it anymore. In Professional Sports, there is something called a Collective Bargaining Agreement. This is what allows the professional athletes to be able to compete in events like the Olympics.

The NHL doesn’t have one in place yet for the 2014 Olympics. The CBA that was established in 2005, which is six years in duration (through the 2010-11 season.) Russian superstar and NHL Hart Memorial Trophy ( League MVP ) Winner, Alexander Ovechkin is one of the most outspoken superstars regarding the CBA for the Olympic games in his home country of Russia for 2014. In September, 2009 Ovechkin stated that he will risk suspension to play for his country even if the NHL is not formally involved. “Nobody can say to me you can’t play for your country in the Olympic Games,” Ovechkin told ESPN.com. “I don’t care,” Ovechkin continued. “I’ll go play in the Olympic Games for my country. If somebody says to me you can’t play, see ya.” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has stated that it is likely that the Vancouver games will be the final Olympics which the NHL sends athletes. He plans to discuss the issue with the Players Association after the Vancouver Olympics to go over the advantages and disadvantages of sending players. The NHLPA has repeatedly stated that they fully support continued participation.

Some owners may tell you that they support the Olympics, but I know many don’t. Their teams are getting into midseason form and are forced for a near 3 week break. What about the hot teams of the NHL such as the Flyers? They were on a bad run back in November and December. Now they finally turned their season around, and have to take a break for the Olympics. Other concerns are injuries, and acquiring bad habits from other players that they don’t normally play with. I can understand both sides of this fence. There is even a trade freeze in place for the Olympic break. Regular trade talks will resume on March 1st. This doesn’t stop talking amongst other teams, with there already being rumors of several teams preparing deals for March 1st. So who will win this battle? Owners, players, NHLPA?

Morally can you blame players of this caliber? If I had their skill level, I would want to compete at the highest level possible, and represent my Country in the process. Who wouldn’t? You could always bring up contract obligations, and legal issues that could arise from leaving to go play in the Olympics if there was no CBA present for them. Regardless of the fact if you are labeled as a ‘Pro’ athlete or amateur athlete, if you’re the best your country has to offer then no one can take that from you.

In other Countries such as Cuba, they breed their athletes young for sports like Baseball to compete at high levels for their Country. Often they have beaten severely for not being as committed to the sport, which the Cubans have taken as not being committed to the Country. Athletes have had their families’ lives threatened, or even kidnapped. The Olympics play a role in each Country differently. In the USA, even with Baseball it could start at the level of T-ball unknowingly. Deep down I think people who question what is right or wrong concerning pro athlete or amateur athletes should look at the entire picture. If you have an athlete like Alexander Ovechkin available to play for your country, are you going to turn him down just because he is a professional athlete? I surely wouldn’t.

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