Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal still unsure of playing at Tokyo Olympics.
So ran the headlines this week, which got me thinking about how professional athletes are now allowed to compete in the Games. It certainly hasn't always been the case, and the change has been a very gradual and, in many ways, quite a strange process that tennis, for its part, mostly managed to dodge.
Tennis was played at the inaugural 1896 Olympics before being dropped in 1924 due to a dispute between the Tennis Federation and the IOC as to how to define amateur players. It was reinstated in 1988, and anybody was allowed to play. By then the majority of the battles had been fought in other sports.
(Incidentally, Steffi Graf won the women's gold medal that year, making her the only player in the history of tennis to have achieved a single year 'Golden Slam' - all four majors and a gold medal.)
There's always been a sort of uneasy rubbing together of amateur and professional sport, much of it wrapped up in classism. Rugby League began its move into professionalism because footballers needed to be compensated for the time they'd have to take off from their day jobs due to injury.
It was very far-sighted of them (particularly for footballers...) when you look at it from here, 2021, with so many of them side-lined and being so very well compensated for it ...
The Olympics was seen for so long as the last bastion of amateur competition, enforced by the IOC.
Runner Jim Thorpe was famously stripped of his athletics gold medals in 1912 when it was discovered he'd been playing baseball in a semi-professional capacity.
In 1936 Austrian and Swiss skiers boycotted the Winter Olympics in reaction to some of them being declared ineligible to compete because they'd been working as ski instructors.
The reality was, though, that the ideal was unmanageable. The ensuing corrosion is often blamed on Eastern Bloc countries and their system of 'state sponsored full-time amateur athletes,' but, really, everybody was rorting it to some degree.
The general consensus is that the turning point came in 1968 with the Mexican Olympics being broadcast on an unprecedented scale, in colour. Everybody suddenly saw how much money there was to be made.
And it had all gotten too big for the IOC to regulate, leading to it delegating the role of deciding who could compete in the Games to the respective sports' international federations.
The various federations, of course, were interested in making their most famous practitioners as visible as possible, so they began easing the qualifying requirements and the already blurred lines defining what discerned a professional from an amateur began to disappear altogether.
The whole facade fell down in 1992 when the United States sent a basketball side - 'the Dream Team' - containing the likes of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird, to the Olympics in Barcelona. It was the end of any pretence as to the Olympics being a competition confined to amateur sportspeople.
These days anybody's allowed in all the sports, with two notable exceptions - boxing and wrestling - and both of those are currently in a state of Olympic flux.
The ethical concerns, in boxing, of having seasoned pros fighting amateurs have never been quite resolved. The restrictions were dropped for the 2016 Games in Rio, but the last minute nature of the process meant that only three professionals competed.
Interestingly, none of them won, which gave some weight to Mike Tyson's then controversial view that having professional boxers in the Olympics was 'foolish' because 'some of the pro fighters are gonna get beat by the amateurs.' Everybody else was worrying about the amateurs being hurt. Tokyo, if it ever happens, is shaping up to be the real test.
And wrestling ... part of the trouble here is the enormous divide between what generally constitutes amateur and professional wrestling. Is professional wrestling even a sport? Anyway, professional and amateur wrestlers are entirely different species.
Is professional wrestling even a sport? Anyway, professional and amateur wrestlers are entirely different species.
Bizarrely, the IOC voted, in 2013, to drop wrestling (the traditional type) from the Olympic program, effective from 2020. Wrestling - a true contender for the first ever of sports; one of the very few holdovers from the ancient Olympics of the Greeks... dropped from the Games?
The IOC cited issues of 'relevance' and - perfectly for the purpose of this column - 'the lack of universally-known talent' as reasons for what seems to be an utterly bonkers decision. The backlash was enormous. The coach of the Bulgarian wrestling team, Armen Nazaryan, even went on a hunger strike!
Olympic wrestling has since been reinstated, but the fact that they actually contemplated its removal says something about our sporting era.