Right All The Wrong -- June 3, 2010

PHOENIX, Arizona, June 3. THE June issue of Swimming World Magazine tackles the injustice still being perpetuated against swimmers from the 1976 Olympics, who rightfully should be in possession of medals awarded to East Germans who systematically doped. In A Voice for the Sport, Swimming World CEO Brent Rutemiller looks at how new precedent of re-awarding medals from past Olympics is being ignored in the East German case.

In 2007, Marion Jones was stripped of her Olympic medals by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) when she admitted to taking steroids seven years earlier during the 2000 Olympics. A cry immediately went out around the globe also requesting the IOC to strip the medals won in the 1976 Olympics by the systematically doped East Germans (DDR).

Back then, the IOC denied all requests to revisit the 1976 results, citing the IOC 8-year rule, which disallows any discussion of Olympic performances after eight years have passed.

Today, we learn that the IOC 8-year rule must have exceptions or must now be called the IOC 10-year rule because gymnast Dominique Dawes and her teammates were recently given bronze medals 10 years after they competed in Sydney. China was stripped of its 2000 Olympic gymnastic medals because it fielded an underage competitor named Dong Fangxiao.

I recently contacted the IOC with the following official position request:

In light of some recent developments and new information concerning the awarding of Olympic medals to athletes who competed illegally in past Games, Swimming World Magazine would like to know the IOC's position on the following questions:

• What is the IOC's official position statement on the now well-documented facts and admissions that the East Germans systematically doped their athletes and, as a result, compromised the results of the 1976 Olympic Games?

• What is the IOC's official position statement and/or stance on repatriation of Olympic medals to deserving athletes from the 1976 Games?

Here is its reply:

The IOC does not intend to review the allocation of medals and considers the results of the period that you are mentioning as final.

We hope this helps.

Congratulations, Dominique. Sorry, once again, Shirley Babashoff.

As a member of the USA Women's Olympic swim team, Babashoff was the most visible victim of the injustice during the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. Favored to win multiple gold medals, she came away with four silvers and only one gold medal.

In her own words from an earlier interview I conducted with her, Babashoff lays out the case that the issue really isn't over: "Everyone should be compensated somewhat or just acknowledged. Even our own Olympic Committee should step up and have an event where they can invite those who are still alive and recognize them, perhaps with a commemorative medal...or at least say, ‘We know that this has been hard for you.' They should at least acknowledge the women.

"Some people want to think that the issue is over. From our side of it, the whole issue has been shoved under the carpet. I think it is sad. So many women deserved their medals. They were cheated out of their medals at the Olympics!"

Still, the fact remains that the record book is tainted—not by one athlete, but by an entire country.

Babashoff went on to say, "We would like to get what we earned. We were going for the medals, NOT the cash. We were amateurs. We worked so hard. We earned it, and it was stolen right in front of everyone's face, and no one did anything about it. It was like watching a bank robbery where they just let the crooks go and then say, ‘It's OK.' " 

It is not OK. Next year will mark the 35th anniversary of the greatest robbery in sports history. The IOC must be called upon now to right this wrong once and for all time.

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June 2010 Issue
Contents of The June issue:

7 COLLEGE ROUNDUP: Stayin' Alive by Jason Marsteller
Many college men's and women's swimming and diving teams continued their winning streaks at their respective NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III, NAIA and NJCAA championship meets.
At this year's men's and women's NCAA Division I Championships, diving points proved to be key in both Florida's (women's) and Texas' (men's) team triumphs.
Armed with an impressive athletic pedigree and work ethic, NCAA champ Austin Surhoff from the University of Texas could be one of the next great American swimmers on the international scene.

6 A VOICE for the SPORT

In the Swimming Technique portion of the magazine you will find the following:

23 HOW THEY TRAIN: David Ingraham by Michael J. Stott
24 THE SCIENCE OF PERFORMANCE: The Basics of a Great Swimming Start
by G. John Mullen
Advance preparation is the best medicine.

In the SWIM portion of the magazine you will find the following:

18 THE POOL'S EDGE: Jump In...the Water's Fine! by Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen
Summer is right around the corner, which means it's time to get outside and enjoy some open water swimming.
19 WORKOUT CARD: Training with Conejo-Simi Aquatics Masters
by Lauren Hancock

In the Junior Swimmer portion of the magazine you will find the following:
Camden Murphy, Spartan Aquatic Club (Mich.)
30 AMERICAN RELAY by Judy Jacob
Isabella Rongione, The FISH (Va.)
32 THE STREAK CONTINUES by Jason Marsteller
Sarasota YMCA's numbers keep getting better: four straight combined team championships, six straight women's crowns and 25 titles overall at the YMCA Nationals.

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June 3, 2010 Canadians Nancy Garapick and Cheryl Gibson. Americans Shirley Babashoff, Wendy Boglioli, Linda Jezek, Laurie Siering, Camille Wright and Karen Moe-Thornton. Enith Brigitha of the Netherlands and Lyubov Rusanova of Russia (former Soviet Union). Each one of these women were robbed of their Olympic Gold medal moment. Some would say cheated out of.... Many former East German swimmers admit that their gold medals are tainted if not gained through unfair tactics. Some people scream for justice while others say to forget and move on. It is clear that the IOC could care less. Certainly it would be nice if the national governing bodies from each of the countries listed above would ACKNOWLEDGE what had happened. Most are told to keep quiet and move on. Short of a revolution, how do we right this wrong? Is it only the "Montreal Generation" that cares about this? I do. Do we storm the IOC in Lausanne and demand payback? Reality tells me it won't change. Hope keeps me going. Someday....who knows?
Submitted by: paddles
June 3, 2010 It sounds like the movement needs to a "grassroots" athlete-oriented one, and spearheaded by some of the former East German swimmers themselves. Some of them were so angry at being doped and lied to, and having their medical complications ignored, that they have publicly denounced their medals anyway. I believe I remember reading something about one of them, (Andrea Pollack maybe?), flinging her medals at someone in a courtroom, in protest.

Since it was so long ago, Germany has reunified and the DDR no longer exists as a political entity, so the risk of embarrassing any of the dinosaur officials from that era is minimal. And it wouldn't reflect on current German athletes; nobody begrudges Britta Steffen or Paul Biedermann their recent success, which has nothing to do with the DDR doping machine.

It would be hard to ignore the swell of popular public opinion that would come from those swimmers voluntarily relinquishing their medals to the next in line swimmers. Those who chose not to participate, (e.g. possibly Stalinist Petra Thumer based on her recent statements when interviewed by Wendy Boglioli in the '08 PBS documentary) would look bad, and rightly so.

Swimmers such as the great Shirley Babashoff could give her six silver medals (which should have been six golds) to the next non-doped swimmers in line which would place additional pressure for any doper holdouts to relinquish their medals. Some kind of athlete-organized ceremony/celebration could be very healing. While some of the DDR swimmers who sued their former government have been financially compenseated, some of them likey have physical and mental scars that can't otherwise heal.
Submitted by: liquidassets
June 3, 2010 I think it was Christiane Knacke who threw her medals to the ground during a trial. Talk about getting her point across! This is something that will never go away so long as the athletes and fans continue to bang the drum. A grassroots movement sounds great. The two greatest female "stars" from the DDR claim innocence (Kornelia Ender and Kristin Otto). Petra Thumer and Ulrike Tauber honestly believe they did nothing wrong. Perhaps they had no choice in their training, but the Stasi Files said differently as far as their doping was concerned. I don't know what else to think or say that hasn't already been said by thousands of others trying to right this wrong. Perhaps a blog on this matter? Enough to build up the momentum that cannot be ignored by the IOC? What about it Slickwille? You were there and knew the athletes. What is your input? I would honestly like to know your thoughts and memories.
Submitted by: Paddles
June 3, 2010 Petra Thumer is a Stalinist who gave Wendy Boglioli a gift of chocolate coins in foil wrappers with Stalin's likeness on them, during the customary gift exchange with Boglioli after they shot the PBS documentary together. She's a lost cause. Likewise 6x "gold medalist" Otto, who has a high-profile TV job she's afraid of losing. Ender felt caught in the middle like a lot of them.

It's hard for us in the US to imagine what it was like to live and train under a fascist regime. But I'll bet you could find at least a few others who'd be willing to participate. I wonder if any of our swimmers befriended any of the DDR swimmers who spoke out against the doping later on. That would be the place to start. Although I must say that I suspect that those who were financially compensated for their losses from the lawsuits likely have some kind of a gag order attached as a result.
Submitted by: liquidassets
June 3, 2010 Most of the publicity about this is geared towards the class of '76 swimmers, but the class of '92, including Jenny Thompson, got robbed just as badly by the Chinese.
Submitted by: halfbreed
June 3, 2010 100 correct, halfbreed. Richard Quick NEVER forgot or forgave the Chinese for Barcelona.
Submitted by: paddles
June 4, 2010 That's what I was thinking. What's so special about the 76 Olympics? The Olympics of 1980 and 1988 not to mention countless World Championships were ruined as well
Submitted by: JakedBadForYou
June 4, 2010 I think what made the 1976 Olympics stand out (at least in the minds of the public and media) is that other than the 1973 and 1975 World Championships, which were ignored by everyone other than the swim world, is that for the first time, the world saw what was happening with performance drugs. The public seems to think that the DDR women came out of no where in 1976 when in fact the swim world knew that Montreal was a definite possibility, but no one thought it would be to the extent that it was. Everyone was caught off guard by the dominance of the DDR women. I almost think that the DDR was surprised as well. It was almost too easy. I agree with you Jaked....there were loadsof other Olympic Games and World Championships that had the same results with the performance drugs, but by then, the world was a little more saavy and aware. Because Montreal was the first Olympics where performance enhancers were clearly at the forefront, it will always be the so-called first page in the ugly chapter of the DDR's swim legacy - even if Belgrade in 1973 and Cali in 1975 preceded it.
Submitted by: paddles
June 4, 2010 And we're only talking about the cases of systemic doping, i.e., where entire countries were involved. There have been plenty of cases of individuals doping on their own at various Olympics and robbing the clean swimmers of their rightful hardware. (Were Michelle Smith de Bruin's medals ever redistributed? She wasn't caught till after Atlanta, but I don't think many doubt that she was already doping in '96.) Plus there are plenty of others who were never caught, many of whom are still regarded as sports heroes; we all have our suspicions about various swimmers who've shown unnatural improvement at various stages of their careers. (And this includes Americans as well as foreigners.)

Anyway, this is all key to why the IOC doesn't want to open this particular can of worms: it would be a gigantic headache, and would also tarnish their brand. They'd rather just enjoy the luxuries which accrue from being courted by various countries for upcoming Games.

Meanwhile, justice doesn't get served, and probably never will.
Submitted by: halfbreed
June 4, 2010 You are right, halfbreed. I can't tell you how many times I have had a huge question mark over my head regarding an athlete's sudden time drop. It doesn't make a bit of difference what country.....America or China or whatever. I really believe some are doing the juice but never get caught. Oh my God, let's not get into the "luxuries" that IOC members refuse to give up. Samaranch was treated like the president of an entire nation let alone the IOC when he traveled.
Submitted by: paddles
June 4, 2010 Good point about the other Olympics, not just '76. GDR was unique because there were written documents by their government-controlled athletic programs that were exposed after the fall of the GDR, and used to prove doping in particular swimmers, including the '76, '80, and '88 Olympics (possibly '72 as well though I'm not sure about that).

I agree the IOC, USOC, FINA, etc. will never do anything about it. If anything every happens it would have to come from grass-roots, athlete/fan- oriented initiative.
Submitted by: liquidassets
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