Five former U.S. Olympic athletes urged Congress yesterday to enact legislation that would permit taxpayers to divert $1 of any federal income Tax Refund Checkoff Urged For Creation of Olympic Fund By Bart Barnes Washington Post Staff Writer

Five former U.S. Olympic athletes urged Congress yesterday to enact legislation that would permit taxpayers to divert $1 of any federal income tax refund due them to the U.S. Treasury for an Olympic trust fund to support amateur sports programs.

The legislation, sponsored by 225 congressmen and 29 senators, also would permit taxpayers to include a separate contribution to the trust fund in addition to their regular tax payments.

F. Don Miller, the executive director of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said if only 20 percent of the estimated 67 million Americans who receive tax refunds opted for the Olympic checkoff, the fund would receive $13 million to $15 million a year.

"I would hope the number would be more than 20 percent," said Miller at a Capitol Hill press conference.

Of the USOC's $80.1 million quadrennial budget, Miller said, only 5 percent is used to send athletes to the Pan American or Olympic Games. The rest is used to support amateur programs.

"But these monies are only scratching the surface," he said, noting that the United States is the only country participating in the Olympics that does not receive government subsidies for the Olympics.

Also urging passage of the legislation were former Olympic decathlon champion and California Congressman Bob Mathias, 1976 Olympic 400-meter hurdle champion Edwin Moses, 1980 Olympic figure skater Scott Hamilton, 1960 Olympic track and field gold medalist Wilma Rudolph and Melissa Belote Hamlin of Burke, Va., who won three gold medals in swimming in the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Hamlin said training expenses as an amateur in the late 1960s-1970s became too great for her parents and had it not been for support from her grandparents, she might have had to give up swimming.

With the proposed checkoff legislation, she said, "We are going to give more athletes who say, 'I can't swim. It costs too much,' the potential to become top-notch athletes."

Rep. Jack Fields (R-Tex.), one of the chief sponsors of the legislation, noted that the checkoff idea was first proposed by the President's Commission on Olympic Sports in 1976 and that the legislation has been pushed since 1981.

"For too long, America's athletes have participated in international competition with one hand tied behind their back because of a lack of training funds," Fields said.