Olympic Athletes' Safety Questioned in Greg Louganis Disclosure
With the 1996 Olympic Games scheduled to be held in Atlanta, Georgia, Fulton County Commission Chairman Mitch J. Skandalakis asked the County Attorney to determine whether or not the county could require all amateur athletes to disclose their HIV status before competition.
The concern stems from the revelation that olympic diver Greg Louganis had been HIV-infected when he cut his head on a diving board during Olympic competition in 1988. Louganis then dived into the pool with his head bleeding. Furthermore, Louganis did not tell the physician who sutured his scalp that he was HIV-infected so that the doctor could take precautions to protect himself. Louganis, to his credit, regretted his irresponsible actions and went to the doctor at a later date and warned him of his possible HIV exposure.
In response to County Commission Chairman Skandalakis's suggestion, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA)
attacked Skandalakis, stating that his proposal was "based upon ignorance and fear and not sound medical judgement." The prepared statement from GLMA went on to say that "Mandatory HIV testing benefits no one, but reflects bigotry and homophobia."
HIV-Watch was contacted, and asked for advice in dealing with the issue of HIV infection in Olympic athletes and the possibility of HIV transmission via sports. The following letter was forwarded by HIV-Watch to the editor of the Atlantic Constitution for publication:
Letter to the Editor, Atlanta Constitution,
P.O. Box 4698,
Atlanta, GA 30302
Fulton County Commissioner Mitch Skandalakis has recently asked your County Attorney to look into the possibility of requiring all Olympic athletes to disclose their HIV status. Although Commissioner Skandalakis's motives are laudable, a far more logical approach for the Olympics would be to require that all athletes engaged in contact sports be routinely tested. Why is this important? Because HIV-infected blood coming into contact with the intact skin of an uninfected athlete can lead to HIV infection. This mode of spread of HIV disease was documented in the CDC's MMWR, May 22, 1987, with the report of the three "splash cases."
Surgeon General Novello, in her Surgeon General's Report, advocated taking anyone out of sporting events who was bleeding, or who had blood on their uniform. A far more logical approach would be to identify those who are infected ahead of time, before there has been blood contact. Earvin "Magic" Johnson, to his profound credit, gave up his basketball career in order to protect the lives of his fellow players. Can HIV-infected Olympic athletes do any less? Those who are HIV-infected have a moral obligation to act responsibly. No man has the right to endanger the life of another just because he wants to compete in athletic events. HIV infection is a death warrant.
To date,the AIDS lobby and their fellow travelers have been able to block a logical and compassionate approach to the HIV epidemic. Now is the time for responsible medical and public health authorities to address this epidemic as an epidemic rather than a Gay Civil Rights issue. The lives of uninfected Olympic athletes are at stake.
Stanley K. Monteith, M.D.
Author, AIDS: The Unnecessary Epidemic
For more information on this and related subjects, contact HIV-Watch, Dr. Stanley K. Monteith, P.O. Box 1835, Soquel, CA 95073. For merchandise available, call 1-800-5-HIV-WAR.