It's a question whose time for an answer has come, but oh, the timing as the Senate Commerce Committee approved yesterday a bill to set in motion a government outlay of $30 million for amateur athletics.

The measure, to create a coordinating agency with authority to do the spending, came one day after (1) a new International Olympic Committee manifesto urging governments (and UNESCO) to keep their nose out of sports for political ends and (2) Sen. William Proxmire's blast at the way U.S. taxpayers (theoretically at least) are being stung by New York City's sweetheart stadium contract with the Yankees.

Anyway, the $30 mil would be made available for the 12 months beginning Oct. 1, giving the nation a running start toward the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. The bill earmarks $12 million of the total to found and fund training centers; and, on the recommendation of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Russell Long (D-La.), the panel also voted a six-month study to determine whether there should be continued financing of the centers and how it should be provided.

The Long proposal gave rise to debate on the desirability of permanent federal support for spots - "We have to find a way to fund amateur athletics," said the Louisianan. He suggested tax credits for contributions, a tax deduction or checkoff as possibilities.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chief sponsor of the bill, said he believes a tax credit would be workable. Sen. Harrison Schmitt (R.N.M.) said he hopes the reorganization of amateur athletics will stimulate enough athletics will stimulate enough private donations to ease the government out of it.