Foreign Minister exhorts Olympic athletes to bring honor to Cuba
HAVANA -- (AP) -- Declaring collective dignity more valuable than
Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque exhorted Cuba's Olympic team members
not to sell out to those who tempt them with money to desert their country.
``Personal glory is fleeting,'' Perez Roque said in an especially
during a ceremony turning the flag over to the 241 men and women who will
represent Cuba in 21 sports at the games in Sydney, Australia, next month.
``We do not come here to ask you to be champions,'' the foreign
minister said in
the ceremony attended by President Fidel Castro and the rest of the nation's
leadership. ``We ask you to comport yourself with honor and dignity.''
Two-time Olympic heavyweight champion Felix Savon, along with
the rest of
Cuba's powerful 12-member boxing team, was there. So was high-jump champion
Javier Sotomayor, who was thrilled earlier in the day to learn that the world
governing body of amateur track and field ruled to cut his two-year drug
suspension in half -- a move that will allow him to compete in Sydney.
Also among members of the Olympic team was baseball superstar
Omar Linares, who has said he turned down an offer of $8 million to play for the
American major leagues.
It's unclear how receptive the Australian government would be
to asylum attempts
by Cuban athletes. Overwhelmed by a wave of immigrants from Asia and the
Middle East, the government in June launched new videos that warn off illegal
boat people with sinister images of sharks, crocodiles and snakes.
Nevertheless, the force and tone of Perez Roque's speech indicated
concern about possible attempts to woo top athletes into what he described as
Unlike sports agents, ``we do not see machines of muscles, we
men and women,'' Perez Roque said.
Sotomayor said he was grateful to the Cuban people and Castro
for believing in
him after he was stripped of his gold medal in the high jump at least year's Pan
American games after testing positive for cocaine.
``We Cuban athletes have no price,'' Sotomayor told fellow Olympic
members. ``We don't give in nor do we sell ourselves, nor do we exchange the
affectionate applause of millions for millions of dollars of contempt.''
The two-time world high-jump champion and the world record-holder
maintained his innocence and has said his test results were manipulated to bring
shame to the communist country's sports program.
While pleased he can compete in Sydney, he was unhappy that the
Amateur Athletic Association did not exonerate him when it ruled Wednesday in
Monte Carlo, Monaco.
``I want to keep trying to clean up my image. That is my goal,''
The Associated Press.
Cuba criticizes the commercialization of athletes by capitalist
considers those who abandon ``revolutionary sports'' for professional sports to be
guilty of treason.
At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, star pitcher Rolando Arrojo defected
branded a traitor by Castro. Arrojo now pitches for the Boston Red Sox.
Longtime Cuban boxing coach Mariano Leyva also sought political
asylum in the
United States during the Summer Games in Atlanta.
Last week, four members of Cuba's indoor soccer team visiting
Costa Rica for a
regional sports competition sought political asylum in the Central American
Baseball player Andy Morales, a third baseman best known in the
for hitting a home run during Cuba's 12-6 victory over the Baltimore Orioles at
Camden Yards last year, made his second, successful attempt to emigrate to the
United States last month.