Black power sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos have been inducted into the USOPC Hall of Fame ©Getty Images

Two athletes sent home from the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City for protesting against American racial discrimination on the medal podium have been inducted into the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) Hall of Fame.

Tommie Smith and John Carlos, whose raised-fist salute after winning the gold and bronze medals in the 200 metres remains one of the iconic images from Mexico City 1968, were named among the Hall of Fame's class of 2019 in September.

Both were expelled from the US team at the Games by the USOPC – then called the United States Olympic Committee – for their gesture.

But the USOPC decided to bestow its highest honour upon the two athletes - whose stance sparked widespread condemnation at the time but who have since been acclaimed for their podium protest - more than 50 years after the event.

The induction ceremony was held at the US Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, with Smith and Carlos in attendance.

"We realised that after 51 years the greatest invention was not the plane, not the TV, not the telephone but the eraser," Carlos, 74, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"To realise that we can make mistakes in life and there should be no shame.

"I think the [USOPC] has come to that point."

Tommie Smith and John Carlos' black power podium protest came at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City ©Getty Images
Tommie Smith and John Carlos' black power podium protest came at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City ©Getty Images

Smith and Carlos bowed their heads and raised a black-gloved fist while standing on the podium following the conclusion of the men's 200 metres, in which they had finished first and third, respectively.

It was a show of defiance against racism and discrimination in the US at the time of the Games.

Asked if he would change anything if he could go back in time, Carlos told Reuters: "Let me say this loud and clear: No regrets whatsoever. No regrets whatsoever.

"One more time: no regrets whatsoever.2

Upon their return home from Mexico City 1968, Smith and Carlos received death threats and hate mail.

Both men struggled for years to make a living.

"We sacrificed our careers but we helped so many others," Carlos told Reuters.

Gymnast Nastia Liukin, an Olympic gold medallist and four-time world champion, and Misty May-Treanor, a three-time Olympic gold medallist in beach volleyball, were also inducted.

They were joined by Candace Cable, vice-chair of Los Angeles 2028 and an eight-time wheelchair marathon and Alpine skiing Paralympic gold medallist, basketball player Lisa Leslie, short track speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno, Para-swimming star Erin Popovich, swimmer Dara Torres and Para-athlete Chris Waddell.

The USOPC also inducted the Olympic gold medal-winning women's ice hockey team from Nagano 1998, diving coach Ron O’Brien and special contributor Tim Nugent.

The 13 inductees were determined by a voting process that included Olympians and Paralympians, members of the US Olympic and Paralympic family, and an online vote open to fans.

They have represented the US at a combined 36 Olympic and Paralympic Games, tallying 79 medals, including 43 golds

The latest intake brings the total number of Hall of Fame inductees to 154.

Jimmy Roberts, a sportscaster for NBC Sports, hosted the induction ceremony.