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Monday, September 18, 2000
Committee voices concern over betting

 SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- The Australian Olympic Committee called Monday for betting on the games to be reduced as bookmakers took in thousands of dollars on the country's swimming superstar.

 The International Olympic Committee has said it plans to adopt strict anti-betting rules for athletes at future games, but at the moment they are free to wager on themselves or their opponents.

 Betting on sports is a legal national passion in Australia.

 AOC assistant mission chief Michael Wenden said betting restrictions should not only apply to athletes.

 "The problem is, without any reflection at all on our current competitors, there is the possibility that in some point of time that some very big money might ... or the people behind it might try to influence a result," Wenden said. "And I think purely for that hypothetical position, it's really something that should be discouraged and made illegal if possible."

 Wenden made his comments as large sums of money were being wagered on teen-age swimming sensation Ian Thorpe, who was due to race Monday night in the final of the 200-meter freestyle.

 Gerard Daffy, spokesman for Australia's largest online gambling operation, Centrebet, said thousands of dollars were being wagered on -- and against -- Thorpe. Centrebet was offering odds of 1-50 for Thorpe to win the title and his third gold medal of the games.

 "It's news all over the world whether this bloke can do it again but there is this glimmer of hope for people who think he might get beaten," Daffy said.

 He said up to $55,000 in bets could be taken by the time Thorpe dives into the pool Monday night (Monday morning EDT).

 Ahead of the games, the AOC sent a letter to all Australian competitors urging them not to bet in any way on the Olympics.

 Keba Mbaye, chairman of the IOC ethics commission, last week called on athletes and fans not to bet on the Sydney Games.
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