Lewis 'appreciative' as IOC opens door for banned ex-US athlete

Wayne Collett (left) and Vince Matthews at the 400m Olympic ceremony at the 1972 Games in Munich, Germany. -
Wayne Collett (left) and Vince Matthews at the 400m Olympic ceremony at the 1972 Games in Munich, Germany. -

FORMER US Olympic gold medallist Vince Matthews, 74, who was banned for life by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1972, can now be accredited for Olympic Games.

Matthews and Wayne Collett, both African Americans, were banned by the IOC in 1972 after protesting while on the Olympic podium in Munich, Germany. Collett died in 2010.

Matthews and Collett placed first and second, respectively, in the men's 400m final. But the pair showed no solemnity during the playing of their national anthem, owing to the disturbances back home over how African Americans were being treated. Collett, who was barefooted during the ceremony, later raised a fist, the symbol of the Black Power movement.

The ban was imposed by the Avery Brundage-led IOC Executive Board.

In an interview with Newsday on Sunday, former Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees (CANOC) president Brian Lewis said the decision by the IOC was a "positive step." Lewis said he is appreciative of IOC president Thomas Bach and his executive for responding to his letter asking that their bans be rescinded.

However, he added, "They haven't explicitly said the ban has been lifted but what they have said, you can draw your conclusions from that."

He said the US Olympic and Paralympic committee has been informed of the decision.

Lewis said he wrote to the IOC in September, in the capacity as head of CANOC.

"There was a meeting recently and it was discussed and this is what was communicated to me."

Lewis, who was also head of the TT Olympic Committee (TTOC), said he is "mindful that the IOC and Olympic Movement is a complex network of stakeholders that in their consideration would have to take on board the legal advice etc."

Asked why he, a Trinidadian, championed the cause for Matthews on Collett, Lewis said he could not remain silent on something so glaringly wrong.

"I would have got involved from the aspect of social justice. I have advocated for gender equality, and an end to sexism. I would have spoken about it and it's no secret. It was an injustice. It was glaring.

"I wondered why USA Track and Field, United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee did not take it up, but I can't answer that. I can't speak for people.

"I would hope or believe that if it were a Caribbean athlete, somebody would pick up the cause."

Lewis noted that the battle was not easy as "at times I felt I was a lone voice crying in the wilderness."

He noted though that he did receive some support "off the grid" from people wary of the possible backlash.

He said NACAC president Mike Sands, a Bahamian, recently joined in the call for the lifting of the bans.

Lewis said he has never met Matthews or Collett.


"Lewis ‘appreciative’ as IOC opens door for banned ex-US athlete"

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