COURCHEVEL, France — The International Olympic Committee's executive board approved without dissent Monday a recommendation by the medical commission that would allow Magic Johnson to play for the U.S. basketball team in the Summer Games at Barcelona.
"There is no reason whatsoever that we should say to Mr. Magic Johnson that he should not participate in the Games," said Prince Alexandre de Merode of Belgium, chairman of the IOC's medical commission, during a news conference between meetings of the 10-member executive board.
"We will be delighted to welcome him in brotherhood."
De Merode will report later this week to a full session of the 93 IOC members, but he said he expects little or no opposition to the medical commission's opinion that Johnson poses minimal risk to other players because of his infection with HIV.
De Merode characterized comments by some, including the Australian national basketball team's doctor, that Johnson should not be allowed to play because of the infection as "slightly hysterical."
"The medical commission, in light of our present knowledge, has adopted a very clear stand," he said. "Participation in sports (by an HIV-infected athlete) presents practically no risk of contamination."
He cited a recent study presented to the U.S. Olympic Committee by two doctors and a trainer at Indiana University that concluded the potential for HIV transmission through contact in sports is remote. According to their report, there are no such documented cases of HIV transmission.
Ranking Olympic and Pan American Games sports by degree of exposure to the virus, they placed only three--boxing, taekwondo and wrestling--in the greatest risk category. Basketball was among six sports considered a moderate risk. Thirty-one sports were placed in the lowest-risk category.
"As far as we're concerned, the matter is straightforward," De Merode said. "We have no objection, provided that minimal rules be complied with. The FIBA (international basketball federation) is familiar with the situation. If there is an open wound, the game should be halted and the wound should be dealt with.
"There is a growing hysteria about AIDS, and we should deal with it coolly and calmly, especially since there is so little risk of contamination."