International Olympic Committee

In February, the executive board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted to remove wrestling from the Olympic Games from 2020 onward as part of an effort to reevaluate the Olympic lineup. This major blow to one of the oldest known sports has met significant resistance from the general public. Wrestlers at the UT are already facing similar difficulties — UT does not maintain an official wrestling team, and the athletes here have had to form the informal Longhorn Wrestling Club in order to compete. Both the IOC and the UT athletics department need to be reminded that athletics is about a lot more than money. It’s about preserving the spirit of competition and wrestling, a proud and ancient tradition.

Part of the problem, some believe, is that the wrestling community hasn’t lobbied on their own behalf the way other sports have. Numerous reports have suggested that another sport that was on the fence, the modern pentathlon — which combines pistol shooting, fencing, freestyle swimming, running and horseback riding — was chosen over wrestling because of aggressive lobbying and connections within the IOC. One of the IOC board members, for example, is an executive with the Modern Pentathlon Federation.

No Texas university has an NCAA Division I wrestling program. Longhorn Wrestling Club Coach Bob Moore pointed out that “[the state of] Texas has more high school wrestlers, both boys and girls, than any other state other than California.” I asked him why this significant community of high school wrestlers wasn’t matched on the college level. In other words, why doesn’t UT-Austin, which seems to have everything, not have an NCAA wrestling team? Moore told me, “There’s a lot of pressure there, and there always has been. If Texas were to get a team, all the other state universities would follow along, and maybe, because the Big 12 only has four wrestling teams left, they’ll decide to start wrestling at Texas.”

The mission statement of the National Collegiate Wrestling Association, a confederation of unofficial wrestling teams including the Longhorn Wrestling Club, reads in part, “If and when a school does have room for athletic expansion, it is our hope that the wrestling program ...  will be a first choice for ultimate inclusion in the school’s athletic curriculum.” Coach Moore went on to tell me that he didn’t quite understand why they hadn’t started NCAA wrestling at UT, assuming that Title IX restrictions, which mandate that equal funding be provided for both male and female versions of the sport, were a factor. It seems the sport’s relatively low marketability and small following are its greatest obstacles, but one would think that the most profitable athletics department in the country should be able to find some extra room in their budget. The issue is ongoing, and it’s unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.

Among the wrestlers at UT, shock and disappointment over the IOC’s decision prevailed. Longhorn Wrestling Club’s Jordan Hildreth put it bluntly: “You can’t have The Olympics without wrestling.” Team captain and 235-pounder John Demis called it “our Super Bowl.” And for Kaitlin Paveglio, the 148-pounder for the women’s team, the loss was even more jarring. “I thought it was really cool that they finally got girl’s wrestling into the Olympics [starting in 2000], and now they’re taking it away,” she said. These strong emotions have quickly translated into a global “Save Olympic Wrestling” campaign. Coach Moore said, “There are so many petitions you don’t even know which ones to sign,” and they all seemed to express the same hope — that the decision wouldn’t stand up to the strong backlash.

However, if those efforts fall short and the decision stands, it’ll be sad to see the end of the sport with the longest and proudest Olympic tradition. According to Professor Thomas Palaima of the UT classics department, wrestling is the best documented sport from ancient history, appearing in relief carvings and tomb markings all the way back to 3000 BCE — as well as famous Greek literature like the epic poems of Homer. The professor explained, “It was central to the ancient Olympics, and ancient Greece had truly legendary wrestlers,” many of whose names are still known thousands of years later. Apparently, the IOC and UT athletics didn’t get the memo.

Adams is a government freshman from Aiea, Hawaii.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

LONDON — On the day he went public with an admission of doping after years of denials, Olympic officials disclosed one more embarrassment for Lance Armstrong: He was stripped of a bronze medal won at the 2000 Sydney Games.

The International Olympic Committee sent a letter to Armstrong on Wednesday night asking him to return the medal, just as it said it planned to do last month. The decision was first reported Thursday by The Associated Press.

On Monday, Armstrong taped an interview with Oprah Winfrey for broadcast Thursday and Friday on her network. A person familiar with the situation told the AP that the winner of seven straight Tour de France titles confessed to Winfrey to using performance-enhancing drugs.

The timing of the IOC move, however, was not related to the TV interview.

The IOC executive board discussed revoking the medal in December, but delayed a decision until cycling’s governing body notified Armstrong he had been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and all results since 1998. He then had 21 days to appeal.

Now that the deadline has expired, the IOC decided to take the medal away. The letter to Armstrong was also sent to the U.S. Olympic Committee, which would collect the medal.

“Having had confirmation from UCI that Armstrong has not appealed the decision to disqualify him from Sydney, we have written to him to ask for the return of the bronze medal,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams told the AP.

Two months after winning his second Tour de France title in 2000, Armstrong took the bronze in Sydney in the road time trial behind winner and U.S. Postal Service teammate Vyacheslav Ekimov of Russia and Jan Ullrich of Germany.

The IOC opened a disciplinary case in November after a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report detailed widespread doping by Armstrong and his teammates. The report called it the most sophisticated doping program in sports.

The IOC will not reallocate Armstrong’s bronze medal, just as cycling’s ruling body decided not to declare any winners for the Tour titles once held by the American. Spanish rider Abraham Olano Manzano, who finished fourth in Sydney, will not be upgraded and the bronze medal will be left vacant in Olympic records.