Athletes expressed mixed feelings today about the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) decision not to send a team to this summer's Moscow Olympics, in compliance with President Carter's request for a boycott to punish the Soviet Union for its invasion of Afghanistan.
Steeplechaser Henry Marsh -- one of the members of the USOC House to Delegates, which voted not to send a team to the games -- said: "As athletes, we have to be willing to sacrifice for things that are higher than our own personal athletic endeavors and interests."
Andy Toro, who represents kayak and canoeing in the House of Delegates, said: "We are athletes. We know how to handle defeat. On the field, we are defeated many times. Obviously, we got defeated here today because we all wanted to go."
A group of athletes here issued a simple, two-sentence statement after the USOC vote: "The USOC has decided that the U.S. should not participate in the 1980 Summer Olympics. We wish those athletes who do not compete the best of luck."
Marsh said that statement should not be construed as encouraging other nations not to join the broad, international boycott the Carter administration has called for.
"I hope that all the countries join with us in the boycott, and personally I hope that it is very effective," he said. "The more countries that do boycott, the more effective it will be. I support the president, and the House of Delegates, in the decission they made today. Hopefully it will have a significant impact on Russia and on world peace."
Fred Newhouse, a gold medalist in track and field in the 1976 Olympics, said that while most prospective U.S. Olympians were bitterly disappointed, they had proper representation in today's deliberations.
An athletes' resolution that the USOC send a team to Moscow because failure to do so would violate its own constitutional purpose was presented. It died as the proboycott resolution was passed.
"We were allowed the opportunity to present our position during the debate, and I think we did so admirably," Newhouse said. "We wanted to participate (in the Games). But it was a fair decision. It was carried out in a democratic method. I think everybody voted their conscience, and the decision was not to send a team."
Some athletes reacted angrily.
Bill Rodgers, the favorite for an Olympic gold medal in the marathon, said in Natick, Mass., that athletes "should force the USOC (members) to quit because they voted this. I think they should all lose their jobs. They've given up what their jobs stood for, which was not to allow any racial, religious or political pressures to affect them. . . . I don't know of a lower level that American sport has sunk to."
USOC delegates are unpaid volunteers, most elected by athletes and national governing bodies in various sports.
Julian K. Roosevelt of Oyster Bay, N.Y., one of two Americans on the International Olympic Commitee (IOC) called the USOC's decision "disastrous."
"I think the USOC has knuckled under to political pressure unnecessarily," said Roosevelt, who did not attend today's meeting.
Roosevelt said the USOC is "now subject to censure by the IOC," possibly including stripping of the 1984 Summer Games from Los Angeles.
However, USOC President Robert J. Kane and Executive Director F. Don Miller, who have been in close contact with the IOC, said they did not expect any reprisals. Kane said he expects the Soviet Union and its allies to compete in Los Angeles.