CANOC President Brian Lewis has called on the IOC to rescind life bans handed to Vince Matthews and Wayne Collett for their podium protests at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich ©CANOC

Caribbean National Olympic Committees (CANOC) President Brian Lewis has called for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to reinstate two African American athletes 48 years after they received a life ban for a podium protest.

Vince Matthews and Wayne Collett, 400 metres gold and silver medallists respectively, were expelled from the 1972 Munich Olympics and banned for life after making a podium protest against racial inequality in the United States.

Their gesture was described by the IOC as an "insulting display", who threatened to withhold medals in the event of future protests.

"The Olympic Movement owes Matthews and Collett an apology," Lewis told insidethegames.

"That their life bans have not to date been rescinded, is a travesty."

Collett died in 2010 from cancer so any recognition now would only be posthumous.

Matthews was inducted into the US Track and Field "Hall of Fame" in 2011.

Their actions followed a higher-profile protest by 200m medallists Tommie Smith, John Carlos and Peter Norman during the medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico Games. Smith and Carlos were immediately expelled from the Games.

Lewis made the call for reinstatement in the influential sports newsletter Sport Intern "to help shine a light on past practices, in the hope that doing so can inform today’s debate over freedom of expression for athletes."

His words have come into sharper focus in the light of last month’s decision by the San Francisco Asian Art Museum to remove the bust of major donor Avery Brundage, because of his racist and antisemitic attitudes.

Brundage had been IOC President in 1972 when the bans were imposed on the American sprinters.

Avery Brundage (standing) was IOC President at the time that lifetime bans were issued to Matthews and Collett ©Getty Images
Avery Brundage (standing) was IOC President at the time that lifetime bans were issued to Matthews and Collett ©Getty Images

Lewis has also called for the IOC to present the highest award in the Olympic Movement to those who protested.

Brundage was the first recipient of the Olympic Order when it was introduced in 1975 and the award has also been given to Nicolae Ceaucescu, Erich Honecker, Todor Zhivkov and Robert Mugabe.

Olympic honorees do also include Nelson Mandela, Jesse Owens and Pope John Paul II.

"The list is a long one but Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Peter Norman, Vince Matthews and Wayne Collett are not on it," said Lewis.

He has added to the growing criticism of Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter under which "no kind of demonstration of political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites."

Lewis said: "My strong view is that Rule 50 can’t stand scrutiny.

"It is explicitly linked to podium protests against racial injustices.

"It is the symptom of systemic racism and racial discrimination.

"Consistent with the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, free expression during ceremonies, for example, should be allowed.

"The history of the IOC and Olympic Movement is under scrutiny. 

"This is a moment in time the IOC must embrace the uncomfortable conversations and be proactive and acknowledge and take action."