Lord Killanin (says) attempts to use the Olympic Games as a political football have been met with worldwide condemnation. . . . Moscow is getting ready for the Games of the 22nd Olympiad. -- From a Soviet Union news release in which the word "Afghanistan' is never used.

You'd think so from listening to American athletes and Ronald Reagan lately. They want the United States to take part in Moscow's Olympics this summer. They want Jimmy Carter to change his mind -- and heaven knows there is precedent for that -- about his demand for a boycott of the Games.

So far Carter has refused to give in. At all levels from the White House to the State Department, the adminstration seems set in concrete on this one.

Good. No matter how thrilling the Lake Placid Olympics were, no matter how happy the hockey team made us, no matter how ineffectual a boycott is in influencing the Soviets to stop shooting people who mean them no harm -- no matter if Carter's cutups have so alienated our one-time friends that we cannot even count on Canada and Great Britain to follow our lead. One thing must not be forgotten.

By its act of international crime, the Soviet Union has earned dishonor, not the honor and legitimacy that American participation in the Olympics would imply. The painful warrior famoused for flight, After a thousand victories once failed, Is from the book of honour raized quite, And all the rest forgot for which he toil'd. -- From a sonnet by Shakespeare.

If Muhammad Ali wants to fight, so let him.

He has given us his best. Whatever happens now cannot change that. We hear lamentations that another fight, which would inevitably turn into a series of fights, would ruin the legend.

"Let us remember you the way you were," is the argument against Ali's comeback, "not as an over-the-hill pug getting hurt for money."

At 36, Joe Louis ended a retirement that lasted 18 months. Ali's retirement is 18 months old. He will fight in June, probably against Mike Weaver, for a version of the championship that Louis sought on his comeback date against Ezzard Charles in 1950.

"Louis simply had nothing left in his armory," wrote biographer Barney Nagler in "The Brown Bomber."

Charles, respectful of the old and wonderful champion, relented in his assault. After 15 rounds, the decision went to Charles.

"A man who was in Louis's dressing room after the fight wrote, 'The old fighter was a shambling hulk. He was cut above both eyes, one of which was shut tight by swelling. He could not see well enough to pull on his trousers. Friendly hands helped him. Sugar Ray Robinson leaned down and put Louis's shoes on him. The old champion was led out of the stadium by friends."

Six fights and a year later, Louis went in with a young kid named Rocky Marciano.

"In the beginning," Nagler wrote, "it appeared as if Louis would last the distance, perhaps win. His jab was working. . . . Then, abruptly, Louis seemed older. In the sixth round he moved slower, and Marciano began shoving him around in the clinches. He was being hurt by grazing punches. His legs had deserted him."

Marciano knocked out Louis in the eighth round, sending the old champion through the ring ropes onto the ring apron, where he lay with only one leg inside the ropes. Louis never fought again.

What memory saves of Louis is not that melancholy image of painful defeat. Shakespeare had it wrong. This warrior famoused for fight lives yet in honor, as so will we see always the young and airborne Ali working his magic the way no big man had ever done.

The oldest man ever to win the heavyweight championship was Joe Walcott at 37. He lost it at 39 on a first-round knockout by Marciano.

Ali was 38 in January.

What will happen with Ali is what happened with Louis. Louis needed the money to make the IRS happy. Ali needs the money to make himself happy. More than that, Ali needs the attention he lost without the fight game to make him attractive. For their reasons, athletes can't quit their games easily. Ali will quit only when he is embarrassed or hurt in the ring.

If it doesn't happen against Mike Weaver, it will happen against Larry Holmes. It won't be fun, but by his work for 20 years Ali has earned the right to choose his own way out of the ring. We will choose our memories. There's a sucker born every minute. P. T. Barnum

. . . The Redkins have sent letters to their season ticket holders, informing them that their tickets will cost more this season.

"The increase on those seats has been made necessary by spiraling costs," the letter said.

I've been out of town a few days. Did I miss something? Did Billy Kilmer come back onto the payroll? Did Chris Hanburger leave TV for linebacking? Is George Allen, the cad, still charging the Redskins for his pajamas?

What spiraling costs?

According to numbers published in this distinguished newspaper last season, the Redkins have significantly reduced their payroll -- with the two dozen major players costing $2,370,000 instead of the $2,590,000 of two years earlier.

Maybe the price of tape has gone up.