The functionaries who rule the Olympic Games formally listened to the complaints and demands of medal winners today in a break with the 87-year traditions of the Olympic movement, which has long operated under the principle that athletes are better seen than heard.
The athletes used the privilege to register demands for relaxing the amateur rules, tightening drug controls and increasing the participation of women in Olympic events.
The more than 600 Olympic officials here to discuss the future of the Games greeted Ivar Formo, the 30-year-old Nordic skiing champion, with loud and sustained applause when he stepped to the podium as the first athlete to address the Olympic Congress. He was followed by Bulgaria's women's rowing champion, Svetla Otzetova, and by West Germany's star fencer, Thomas Bach.
The 35 Olympic medal winners invited here realized early the chance handed them to make a political splash. Strangers to each other, they quickly organized themselves into working groups and, fending off an attempt by Soviet authorities to influence the selection of their spokesmen, seemed to be moving toward a strong final statement to be delivered Monday by the British runner, Sebastian Coe.
Most surprising to the Olympic officials was the athletes' urging that something be done about the deficiencies in drug-control procedures. Formo called for the establishment of an international drug control committee and asked that athletes caught using drugs be fined as well as disqualified for life from Olympic sport.
The athletes also appealed to the International Olympic Committee to liberalize its controversial Rule 26, which governs the amateur status of Olympic participants, in view of the more strenuous demands placed on athletes who may have to sacrifice jobs and schooling to train.
"We as athletes," said West Germany's Bach, "are not in favor of admitting professionals, that is to say those who are not interested in learning any other profession, to the Olympic Games. We do not want to be misused as walking advertising pillars."
But Bach said Olympic athletes should be allowed to earn money that would go toward training for later jobs. He urged the IOC to cede authority on defining the athlete-status rules for the Games to individual sports federations.
The Soviet-led countries oppose a change in the existing eligibility requirements, and IOC members are known to be reluctant to surrender to the sports federations the right of final approval.
In a third set of demands by the athletes, Bulgaria's Otzetova called for an end to discrimination against women in sports.
"Science has shown that women are suitable for all sports and that severe training does not damage the health of women, providing that it is submitted to strict medical control," she said. "Women who practice sports are physically and psychologically much fitter."