Renaldo Nehemiah and Willie Gault, world-class hurdlers who gave up Olympic dreams to play professional football, should be allowed to compete in the Olympics, the head of track's international governing board said in Madrid.

"If the big-money-making tennis stars are allowed to play in the Olympics, there is no reason why Nehemiah and Gault should be banned," said Primo Nebiolo, president of the International Amateur Athletic Federation.

Nebiolo's comments follow the recent endorsement by the International Olympic Committee and its President Juan Antonio Samaranch of a move to allow professionals to compete in the Games, subject to approval by the governing body in the particular sport. Several sports, including tennis, have already approved participation of professionals in the Olympics. The rule change to open the way for all pros is to be voted on at an Olympic meeting in October.

Nehemiah, of the San Francisco 49ers, and Gault, of the Chicago Bears, were barred as professionals by the IAAF from international competition. Other track stars in the NFL include Ron Brown of the Rams, who won a relay gold medal in the 1984 Olympics, and Michael Carter of the 49ers, shot put silver medalist.

Nebiolo said the issue has been troubling him for years and "now my conscience tells me we must reconsider . . . " He said the issue would be discussed early next month by the Association of Summer Olympics International Federations.