In the second day of our landmark five-day series announcing Swimming World's unprecedented move to strip the East German women of our prestigious World and European Swimmers of the Year awards, we look back at some of the people most victimized by the systematic doping regime.
Courtesy of: Tor Bengston/Swimming World Cover June 1976
Courtesy of: Tor Bengston/Swimming World Cover June 1976
While East Germany's wrecking ball of a women's team dominated for more than a decade through the 1970s and into the '80s, the most devastating single event during which the East Germans defrauded the athletic process proved to be the 1976 Montreal Games. Not only were their cries from critics about the East German's masculinity, but these cries were also turned into attacks on the victims, calling them sore losers.
One of the most vilified of the victims proved to be Shirley Babashoff, who went on to be tagged with the moniker, "Surly Shirley," due to her loud complaints. Learning her lesson, Babashoff fell silent about the East Germans for three decades--until 2007.
Early that year, Babashoff broke 30 years of silence on the issue in a conversation with Swimming World CEO Brent Rutemiller, who penned the seminal piece on those victimized in 1976. We are reprinting that original work today.
By Brent Rutemiller
One hundred and sixty-seven former East German (DDR) athletes will be financially compensated through Germany's Olympic Committee for the systematic doping of DDR athletes from 1973 through 1989. When told of this fact, Shirley Babashoff's first comment was, "Only 167 Athletes!"
Reports from the East German Stasi files, first obtained by Phil Whitten and reported in Swimming World Magazine, indicated that more than 10,000 athletes were party to the abuse; most unknowingly and without parent permission. Many of the women have gone on to experience psychological problems or have delivered children with birth defects from the after-effects of doping.
"It is really sad that it has taken this long before someone even thought about the people," said Babashoff. As a member of the USA Women's Olympic Swim Team, she was the most visible victim of the injustice during the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada.
Babashoff was branded by the media as a poor sportsperson for her comments implying that the East German women were on growth hormones. Headlines called her "Surly Shirley". Favored to win multiple gold medals, she came away with four silver and only one gold medal.
According to Mark Schubert, her coach at the time, "She was the only one that had the guts to speak out back then. If anybody had the right to speak out, it was her because she was the one that was cheated out of Olympic gold medals."
If the record books were to remove all the East German performances for that Olympics, Babashoff would have been the toast of the town with 5 gold medals and one bronze. Instead, she got roasted. "She was abhorred by the media", Coach Schubert concluded.
The media branded Shirley and her teammates as Ugly Americans. Bob Ingram, in the September 1976 issue of Swimming World Magazine wrote: The American Women found themselves in the position of Ugly Americans, thanks to some comments from a few of the girls.
Rather than congratulating the winners, specifically the DDR swimmers, as is customary in the true Olympic spirit of competition, a few of the American girls opted to cry sour grapes instead.
"To be frank, I don't think we should look like men."
"I wouldn't want to walk around the neighborhood looking like a guy."
"That's not the way God created us to be like that (looking like DDR Swimmers)"
The American blasts even went so far as criticizing the low voices of some of the DDR girls. But as on DDR official said, "we came here to swim, not to sing."
They say that time has a way of mending all wounds, but this wound still needs healing.
The 1976 USA Women's Olympic Team was right to cry foul. The USA team set nine American records at those Olympic Games only to see every record eclipsed by an East German swimmer riding high in the water from a systematic state-orchestrated drug program that claimed titles in 10 out of 11 individual races.
Race after race, the USA women were shocked and demoralized. Their only redemption was a chance to defeat the illegal East German medal machine with a showdown in the 400 freestyle relay.
Going into the last event of the games, the East Germans already held the world record with a time of 3:48.80. The United States held the Olympic record with a time that was 6.7 seconds slower - a huge margin to overcome. Although that time was set four years ago with Babashoff the only returning member, the odds were truly against Team USA, which so desperately wanted to put a dagger into the heart of their living nightmare.
To listen to Jack Nelson, USA's Head Women's Swim Coach, emotionally describe what unfolded when Kim Peyton, Wendy Boglioli, Jill Sterkel and Babashoff stepped up for that race Click Here or the Swimming World Radio button to the right. It is a classic underdog story in what history has deemed the greatest female relay race of all time.
With the entire world watching and the DDR coaching staff pacing the deck, Babashoff anchored the relay. Peyton, Boglioli, and Sterkel split huge lifetime bests with Peyton setting an American Record on the lead.
Babashoff's relay leg embodied the frustration and hopes of the entire team of 24 athletes and coaches as she hit the water to bring home the toughest gold medal ever earned and the only one for the Women's Swim Team.
What is even more astonishing still to date, in what can only be called a mind over body feat, Babashoff and her teammates broke the East German world record by FOUR seconds. The crowd's noise still echoes in time.
The women of 1976 had their one ounce of revenge. A huge statement with a Hollywood ending that is still not put to film!
Still the fact remains that the record book is tainted. Not by one athlete, but by an entire team.
There were early warning signs. An excerpt in the October 1973 issue of Swimming World Magazine from an article by Jean Pierre LaCour, translated by International Editor Nick Thierry, that first appeared in the Paris newspaper France-Soir on September 9th, 1973, gave an early warning of what the 1976 Women's Team was to face in Montreal.
There is talk of a sort of "vaccine against fatigue." It consists of an injection of toxic substances which allows the body to combat fatigue more efficiently. It is believed that male hormones are given to the girls, who, in addition to an increase in vigor, develop a superiority complex with respect to other females from foreign countries. Another device is the use of a doping substance, not currently detectable, which virtually guarantees maximum performance with 98 percent chance of success, as compared to classic training which is about 68 percent successful. These accusations are terrible. The only way for East Germans to answer these accusations is to open their training camps. A simple denial will not be sufficient. Click Here to read the entire article.
Now, 31 years later, Germany has ended the speculation and proved that the outspoken Babashoff and her teammates were right all along.
The payment to 167 of the 10,000 athletes ends a long dispute in Germany. What is interesting is that the unified Germany could have washed its hands of the entire issue by claiming that it was from a previous government no longer in existence.
In her own words, 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!
"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 okay'".
The injustice is not only felt in the USA. Canada and the Netherlands also were impacted by the onslaught of the East German medal blitz.
If the record books were to be revised this would be the final medal standings:
JULY 19, 1976
Kornelia Ender, DDR 27.10 55.65*
Petra Priemer, DDR 27.42 56.49
Enith Brigitha, HOL 27.72 56.65 Gold
Kim Peyton, USA 27.70 56.81 Silver
Shirley Babashoff, USA 27.72 56.95 Bronze
Claudia Hernpel, DDR 27.94 56.99
Jill Sterkel, USA 28.20 57.06
Jutta Weber, GER 28.20 57.26
JULY 22, 1976
Kornelia Ender, DDR 28.63 59.36 1:30.38 1:59.26*
Shirley Babashoff, USA 28.56 59.27 1:30.45 2:01.22 Gold
Enith Brigitha, HOL 28.91 1:00.24 1:31.64 2:01.40 Silver
Anneliee Maas, HOL 29.13 1:00.16 1:31.42 2:02.56 Bronze
Gail Amundrud, CAN 28.87 59.69 1:31.36 2:03.32
Jennifer Hooker, USA 29.25 1:00.66 1:32.80 2:04.20
Claudia Hempel, DDR 29.17 1:00.51 1:32.61 2:04.61
Irina Vlasova, USSR 29.72 1:01.41 1:33.72 2:05.63
JULY 20, 1976
Petra Thumer, DDR 1:01.1 9 2:04.68 3:08.32 4:09.89*
Shirley Babashoff, USA 1:01.28 2:05.20 3:08.91 4:10.46Gold
Shannon Smith, CAN 1:01.25 2:05.94 3:10.51 4:14.60 Silver
Rebecca Perrott, NZL 1:01.71 2:06.69 3:11.81 4:14.76 Bronze
Kathy Heddy, USA 1:02.32 2:06.81 3:11.71 4:15.50
Brenda Borgh, USA 1:01.45 2:06.22 3:11.72 4:17.43
Annelies Maas, HOL 1:02.26 2:07.11 3:12.56 4:17.44
Sabine Kahle, DDR 1:01.62 2:06.79 3:13.56 4:20.42
JULY 25, 1976
Shirley Babashoff, USA 1:04.44 2:10.37 3:16.21 4:21.86
5:26.58 6:31.13 7:36.31 8:39.63
Petra Thumer, DDR 1:03.43 2:09.06 3:14.81 4:20.59
5:25.92 6:30.82 7:35.73 8:37.14*
Shirley Babashoff, USA 1:03.57 2:09.19 3:14.85 4:20.80
5:26.09 6:31.26 7:35.97 8:37.59 Gold
Wendy Weinberg, USA 1:03.56 2:09.44 3:15.15 4:21.01
5:26.67 6:32.25 7:37.70 8:42.60 Silver
Rosemary Milgate, AUS 1:05.12 2:11.56 3:18.06 4:24.41
5:30.43 6:36.32 7:42.41 8:47.21 Bronze
Nicole Kramer, USA 1:03.52 2:09.18 3:15.15 4:20.94
5:26.74 6:33.26 7:40.53 8:47.33
Shannon Smith, CAN 1:03.15 2:08.65 3:14.64 4:21.31
5:27.80 6:35.07 7:42.14 8:48.15
Regina Jager, DDR 1:04.53 2:10.61 3:17.23 4:23.95
5:30.68 6:37.05 7:44.53 8:50.40
Jenny Turrall, AUS 1:05.58 2:12.37 3:19.20 4:26.31
5:33.48 6:39.78 7:46.87 8:52.88
JULY 21, 1976
UIrike Richter, DDR 29.87 1 :01.83
Birgit Treiber, DDR 31.09 1:03.41
Nancy Garapick, CAN .30.52 1:03.71 Gold
Wendy Hogg, CAN 30.46 1:03.93 Silver
Cheryl Gibson, CAN 31.61 1:05.16 Bronze
Nadejda Stavko, USSR 31.63 1:05.19
Antje Stille, DDR 31.49 1:05.30
Diane Edelijn, HOL 31.40 1:05.53
JULY 25, 1976
Ulrike Richter, DDR 31.04 1:04.76 1:38.58 2:13.43
Birgit Treiber, DDR 31.80 1:05.63 1:40.61 2:14.97
Nancy Garapick, CAN 31.32 1:05.70 1:40.53 2:15.60 Gold
Nadejda Stavko, USSR 32.31 1:06.68 1:41.46 2:16.28 Silver
Melissa Belote, USA 31.60 1:05.93 1:41.42 2:17.27 Bronze
Antje Stille, DDR 32.01 1:06.31 1:41.56 2:17.55
Klavdia Studennikova, USSR 32.21 1:07.18 1:42.74 2:17.74
Wendy Hogg, CAN 31.11 1:05.13 1:41.47 2:17.95
JULY 24, 1976
Hannelore Anke, DDR 33.14 1:11.16
(Semi-finals) 33.15 1:10.86*
Liubov Rusanova, USSR 34.98 1:13.04 Gold
Marina Koshevaia, USSR 35.53 1:13.30 Silver
Carola Nitschke, DDR 34.48 1:13.33
Gabriele Askamp, GER 35.15 1:14.15 Bronze
Marina Yurchenia, USSR 35.65 1:14.17
Margaret Kelly, GBR 34.98 1:14.20
Karla Linke, DDR 35.22 1:14.21
JULY 21, 1976
Marina Koshevaia, USSR 36.63 1:16.42 1:55.51 2:33.35* Gold
Marina Yurchenia, USSR 36.35 1:15.82 1:55.69 2:36.08 Silver
Liubov Rusanova, USSR 36.72 1:16.52 1:56.45 2:36.22 Bronze
Hannerore Anke, DDR 36.72 1:16.53 1:57.26 2:36.49
Karla Linke, DDR 36.15 1:15.80 1:56.48 2:36.97
Carola Nitschke, DDR 34.91 1:15.34 1:56.03 2:38.27
Margaret Kelly, GBR 35.36 1:14.89 1:56.13 2:38.37
Deborah Rudd, GBR 36.46 1:16.93 1:58.45 2:39.01
JULY 22, 1976
Kornelia Ender, DDR 28.591:00.98
Andrea Pollack, DDR 29.061:00.13"
Wendy Boglioli, USA 29.181:01.17 Gold
Camille Wright, USA 29.441:01.41 Silver
Rosemarie Gabriel, DDR 29.441:01.56
Wendy Quirk, CAN 29.421:01.75 Bronze
Lelei Fonoimoana, USA 29.481:01.95
Tamara Shelofastova, USSR 29.611:02.74
*Ties World Record
JULY 19, 1976
Andrea Pollack, DDR29.80 1:03.29 1:37.24 2:11,41
Ulrike Tauber. DDF30.07 1:03.42 1:37.90 2:12.50
Rosemarie Gabriel DDR29.70 1:02.90 1:37.38 2:12.86
Karen Thornton, USA30.77 1:04.33 1:38.84 2:12.90 Gold
Wendy Quirk, CAN30.52 1:04.10 1:38.13 2:13.68 Silver
Cheryl Gibson, CAN30.40 1:03.91 1:38.63 2:13.91 Bronze
Tamara Shelofastova, USSR 30,051:02.72 1:37.72 2:14.26
Natalia Popova. USSR 31.45 1:05.49 1:40.13 2:14.50
JULY 24, 1976
Ulrike Tauber. DDR 1:03.74 2:15.293:38.00 4:42.77*
Cheryl Gibson. CAN 1:04.71 2:17.333:43.55 4:48.10 Gold
Becky Smith. CAN 1:05.15 2:19.063:45.19 4:50,48 Silver
Birgit Treiber, DDR 1:06.26 2:18.693:45.34 4:52.40
Sabine Kahle DDR 1:05.69 2:20.133:47.25 4:53.50
Donnalee Wennerstrom. USA 1:05.10 2:20.433:49.57 4:55.34 Bronze
Joann Baker, CAN 1:06.72 2:23.303:51.62 5:00.19
Monique Rodahl, NZL 1:06.36 2:20.403:52.40 5:00.21
400 Medley Relay
JULY 18, 1976
DDR Richter Anke Pollack Ender
1:02.23 2:12.38 (1:10.15) 3:11.91 (59.53) 4:07.95 (56.04)
USA Jezek Siering Wright Babashoff Gold
1:04.15 2:17.80 (1:13.65) 3:18.44 (1:00.64) 4:14.55 (56.11)
CAN Hogg Corsiglia - Sloan Jardin Silver
1:04.17 2:17.33 (1:13.16) 3:18.92 (1:01.59) 4:15.22 (56.30)
USSR Stavko Yurchenia Shelofastova Tsareva Bronze
1:04.54 2:17.32 (1:12.78) 3:19.38 (1:02,06) 4:16.05 (56.67)
HOL Edelijn Mazereeuw Damen Brigitha
1:05.11 2:18,47 (1:13.36) 3:23.63 (1:05.16) 4:19.93 (56.30)
GBR Beasley Kelly Jenner Hill
1:06.84 2:20.21 (1:13.37) 3:23.74 (1:03.53) 4:23.25 (59.51)
JPN Nishigawa Haruoka Hatsuda Yamazaki
1:06.01 2:21.27 (1:15.26) 3:23,69 (1:02,42) 4:23.47 (59.78)
AUS Devries Hudson Hanel Tate
1:06.30 2:23.93 (1:17.63) 3:27.36 (1:03.43) 4:25.91 (58.55)
400 Free Relay
Berlin Dynamo, DDR
Krause Seltmann Gabriel Pollack
56.59 1:54.31 (57.72) 2:52.44 (58.13) 3:48.80 (56.36)
USA Peyton Boglioli Sterkel Babashoff Gold
56.95 1:52.76 (55.81) 2:48.54 (55.78) 3:44.82* (56.28)
DDR Ender Priemer Pollack Hempel
55.79 1:51.95 (56.16) 2:48.94 (56.99) 3:45.50 (56.56)
CAN Amundrud Clark Smith Jardin Silver
57.60 1:54.65 d 57.05) 2:51.78 (57.13) 3:48.81 (57.03)
HOL Ran Faber Maas Brigitha Bronze
58.85 1:58.28 (59.42) 2:55.76 (57.48) 3:51.67 (55.91)
USSR Kobzova Vlasova Kliuchnikova Tsareva
58.07 1:56.65 (58.58) 2:55.22 (58.57) 3:52.69 (57.47)
FRA Berger Le Noach Carpentier Schertz
58.99 1:57.75(58.75) 2:57.57 (59.82) 3:56.73 (59.16)
SWE Martensson Persson Olsson Hansson
59.57 1:58.63 (59.06) 2:58.39 (59.76) 3:57.25 (58.86)
GER Weber Platten Nisaen Jasch
58.02 1:57.37 (59.35) 2:57.96 (1:00.59) 3:58.33 (1:00.37)
List of USA's 1976 Olympic Women Swim Team
Shirley Babashoff. 19, 5-9 1/2, 150
Mission Vlejo Nadadores
100 Free, 56.96; 200 Free, 2:00.69
400 Free, 4:12.65; 600 Free, 8:39.63
400 IM, 4:57.11; Relay Member (400 Free)
Melissa Belote, 19, 5-71/2. 135
Solotar Swim Team
200 Back, 2:18.71
Wendy Lansbach Boglioll, 21, 5-101/2,140
Central Jersey Aquatic Club
100 Free, 57.80; 100 Fly, 1:02.07
Relay Member (400 Free)
Brenda Borgh, 15, 5-9, 138
Suburban Swim Club
400 Free, 4:17.29
Leiel Fonoimoana, 17, 5-8, 142
Lakewood Aquatic Club
100 Fly, 1:02.11
Janis Hape, 18, 5-6, 130
Totem Lake Swim Team
200 Breast, 2:40.88
Maryanne Graham, 20, 5-5, 124
Mission Viejo Nadadores
200 Back, 2:17.29
Miriam Smith, 17, 5-61/2,130
Tacoma Swim Club
200 Back, 2:19.56
Jill Sterkel, 15, 5-9, 145
El Monte Swim Club
100 Free, 57.25; 200 Free, 2:02.93
Relay Member (400 Free)
Karen Moe Thornton, 23, 5-7, 125
200 Fly, 2:14.23
Tauna Vandeweghe, 16, 6-1, 150
Long Beach Swim Club
100 Back, 1:05.30
Wendy Welnberg, 17, 5-51/2, 124
Homewood Aquatic Club
800 Free, 8:45.12
Donnalee Wennerstrom, 15, 5-9, 137
West Valley Swim Team
200 Fly, 2:16.02; 400 IM, 5:00.04
Camille Wright, 21, 5-8, 129
100 Fly, 1:01.84; 200 Fly, 2:14.87
Jeanne Haney, 17, 5-4, 122
Aquarius Swim Team
400 IM, 4:59.Z1
Kathy Heddy, 18, 5-6, 132
Central Jersey Aquatic Club
400 Free, 4:17.12
Jennifer Hooker, 15, 5-9, 135
200 Free, 2:03.58
Linda Jezek, 18, 5-8, 138
Santa Clara Swim Team
100 Back, 1:05.17
Nicole Kramer, 14, 5-1,113
Mission Viejo Nadadores
800 Free, 8:42.29
Renee Laravie, 16, 5-11,159
100 Breast, 1:16.62
Renee Magee, 17, 5-11, 149
Dads Swim Club
100 Back, 1:05.78
Marcia Morey, 21,5-9, 145
Unattached, Mission Viejo
100 Breast 1:14.85; 200 Breast, 2:40.56
Kim Peyton 19, 5-10, 143
David Douglas Swim Club
100 Free, 57.75
Relay Member (400 Free)
Lauri Siering, 19, 5-4, 125
100 Breast, 1:14.56; 200 Breast, 2:38.75
To Learn More About Shirley Babashoff
Archived Unedited Comments From January 11, 2007 Article
I was a young AAU swimmer in 1976. I read Swimming World like the Bible. I remember all of these women's names. I grew up in Springfield, IL and knew of Marcia Morey who was from Decatur, IL. Our two teams, even though in different towns, were close so we all knew Marcia. All the women on this team were robbed, but I always felt the worst for Shirley Babashoff. She took such a beating in the press and it had to have hurt her so badly. I remember she wouldn't speak about it for years and even years later when she did, she was still so bitter and probably had every right to be. How do we encourage...no, demand that our own Olympic Committee make this right? It is a blight on the sport. It is a blight on our country...for heaven's sake...they should make this right! I admire Wendy Boglioli continuing to speak to this issue. Why did they only dope the women though? Why not the men? Sincerely- Dianne
Brent Rutemiller, I read your article about East Germany's Systematic Doping...and I loved it. I honestly don't believe that anything can be done to compensate injustice to either side. I also don't know whether to feel sorry more for the East German swimmers for training and leaving in fear (I doubt that any gold medal compensates that life) or other swimmers who trained just as hard, swam clean (were they all clean?? doping was being used in other countries as well, but probably not as systematic as in DDR), and collected what was left. I truly believe that revising the records books from 30 years ago seems like sysyphus work. (Are Marion Jones' team members right when they refuse to give back their relay medal or they should be taken away from them??). Unfortunatelly modern sport is full of doping and you are clean untill proven guilty. What if you get caught 30 years later like in this case? Does it make difference that american swimmers get ackowledged after 30 years and would "only" acknowledment be enough for them (cause after all how can anyone compensate Babashoff's probably different life had she won gold instead of silver medals). Does it make sense that the east german swimmers are being financialy compensated? One can say that they are being compensated for cheating? On the other hand if you see the movie "The Lifes of others" I think that anyone who lived under Stasi should be compensated for living in that regim. Good luck with your work!!! Ed
Hi Brent, I commend you on the article and great research. I would like to get in touch with you regarding this article. I am the son of Nadija Stavko who was in the 100M and 200M Backstroke finals (6th and 4th respectively) as well as IM. In light of the recent happenings in the news (RE: Marrion Jones admitting to doping and the medals given to the respectfully earned athletes), my mother asked me to look into this matter. As a side note, we have been living in the States since '91 and US citizens. I can get you in touch with her also. I look forward to hearing from you in the near future. Sincerely, Alexander
Brent- I f there ever was a time to bring up the DDR and their medals which SHOULD be returned to their rightful owners, it is NOW. I read that Peter Ueberroth wants Marion Jones' relay teammates (from the Sydney Games) to return their medals as well...... Why does it seem that there is more pressure and more media to have Jones' teammates return their (relay) medals when not one of them tested positive? All in the name of fair play, as Ueberroth insists? Come on, the official Stassi records PROVE that the DDR swimmers were on the juice! No one at Ueberroth's level, or with his influence, has come out to stand behind ALL of the swimmers from 1976 up to 1988 whose lives were permanently changed as a result of the DDR cheats. Do you realize that, in all likelihood, Shirley would have been the USA media darling during and after Montreal if she had rightfully won the five gold and one bronze due to her? I Googled Shirley Babashoff's name last night as a result of Ueberroth's statements, and found a photo of her on the awards stand beneath the gold medalist, Petra Thuemer. Obviously the DDR anthem is playing as Thuemer is standing proudly with SHIRLEY'S gold medal draped around her neck. I looked at Shirley's body language and her face and saw a young woman whose spirit was crushed.....Find the photo and take a look for yourself. It is VERY telling. I hope that Swimming World can voice a loud opinion on this pathetic turn of events with Jones and the rest of the mess...... Have a great one! Rick
Dear Brent, I followed the Olympics since I was a young kid. My mom and dad took pride in putting on the games for us as children. My first recollections, altough vague, are of the 1960 summer Olympics in Rome. As a high school junior I watched in horror as Black September unfolded in Munich. As a result I could not bring myself to watch the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. I deeply regret that. Our athletes deserved better of me. I do believe that Shirley Babashoff and all those robbed of their deserved medals should have them. The state sponsorship of cheating was and continues to be a travesty of the spirit of the Games. Sincerely, Jim
Yes, it's about time that SOMEONE (you would think the IOC) would do something about this travesty! We all knew, beginning at the 1973 World Championships, that the female East German swimmers were on steroids. I remember an article in the Swimming World Magazine from the '73 Championships, showing how many pounds each DDR swimmer had gained just since the '72 Olympics, along with other details regarding their muscly, manly physiques and lower voices. Come on! The swimming community, and the IOC, all knew what was going on! And yet, by the 1976 Olympics, they branded Shirley Babashoff and anyone else who said out loud what we all knew, as poor sports. AND took their deserved medals away, to add insult to injury. I feel very sorry for the East German swimmers, although it is pretty hard to believe that they didn't suspect something. Did they really think that they worked that much harder than anyone else in the world, that they would have the top 8 swimmers in an event? It's the same ridiculous results as come from China, where coincidentally the ex-DDR coaches went after the Berlin Wall collapsed! Even so, the DDR swimmers did not volunteer for this, and weren't told what the long-term physical problems would be. I don't think that their medals should be taken away, but that the 3 non-DDR swimmers should be elevated where they belong, and given duplicate medals and added to the record books. The IOC's response to this is reprehensible and typical... Samaranch was a very corrupt leader. I respect Mr. Rogge, and am surprised that he hasn't taken action yet. It is about time to step up and admit past mistakes, and do what can be done to rectify those mistakes!
Great article on the 76 Olympics,but it was only one of the juiced Olympics(not to mention our 1980 team not even being able to swim) While I think we should pressure FINA to act,we don't need to wait . I propose Swimming World publish a "The Way It Should Have Been" series going through each Olympics from 1976 to 1992(the Chinese were clearly juiced in 92.) Do it just lke the regular Olympic coverage.1980 and 1984 will be trickier since there was no head to head competition,but it could be done. Then I would like Swimming World and USA Swimming to honor all the TRUE MEDALISTS at a ceremony at the ISHOF. I bet most masters swimmers would be willing to contribute to that ceremony,I would. Allen
I was interested in your story on Shirley Babashoff's mistreatment at the 1976 Montreal OLympics as I was the manager of the Women's Team. Following the disclosure of the E. German swimmers after the release of the facts about their workouts followed the rejoining of E. Germany with W. Germany the steroid scandal came to light and the German courts fined the coaches. Jack Nelson and I wrote to everyone we could think of protesting the fact that the IOC, FINA and the USOC would do nothing to deprive these E German Olympic CHampions of their ill gotten medals. We wanted all the times to be starred as "Chemically Enhanced" as the minimum. It is indeed far past time for this to have occurred and there have been several medalists in other sports who have been outed ands medal and titles have been dropped and changed. It is wonderful that people are excited about Shirley putting her medals up for Auction because it brings up this really terrible example of the failure of the Olympic Organizations to right a horrible, proven in court, crime. I do hope Swimming World will stay on the story until something is done. The USOC seems scared to take any action and they are stained by thir temerity. I wrote to one of the Committee members back in 1980 whose reply to me was "How do we know Babashoff didn't take steroids also?" My reply was "If she had, she would have won." Also Diane Nyack tried to get the story on TV and Wendy Boglio tried to help her. Nothing came of this either. So do keep up the interest in this story. It's about time it was straightened out. The Olympics can't afford to have this hanging over their reputation. Sincerely, Carolyn
My two daughters were in age group swimming in the 1976 time period. My oldest daughter was 13 years old and went on to swim at Alabama under coachn Gambrile, she also qualifieds for tghe 1980 Olympic swim team but the President boycotted tjose Olympic. My youngest daughter went on to swim for the University Of Virginia coached by Mark Bearnadino and she continued to swim and made the 1996 Woman's Olympic swim team to Atlanta. She made it in the 100 meter free together with Amy VanDyken and jenney Thompson, 40 meter free relay.(400 Meter Free relay) When my girls were swimming in the age group competition Shirley was their idol and also my Idol. To us Shirley was the greatest free style swimmer in the history of American swimming. Not for one moment did we ever think that Shirley comments about the East German woman were untrue. Why wasn't Mark Shubert raising a big stink/ And were was the American IOC president? he should of been raising hell about the East German woman's team. In our hearts Shirley Babashoff will always be the greaterst Woman Swimmer of all time. One last note, how ironic that Shirley was working for the Postal Serevice. I just recently retired from the Postal Seervice after 36 years. Tony
Fantastic article about Shirley Babashoff, our women's swimming team, and the tragedy of Montreal, 1976. I was just a 12-year-old age group swimmer at the time, but I remember certain images of the competition: Shirley being touched out in both distance events by a mysteriously fast East German who disappeared less than two years later...and of course, the unbelievable freestyle relay. Talk about redemption! I still have my issue of Swimming World that covered Montreal...and your article prompted me to pull it out after many years and reread the coverage of the 4 x 100m freestle relay. I found myself staring at the photo of Shirley and her teammates on the award stand - what a fantastic moment! Just two requests, neither of which may be possible (but it doesn't hurt to ask): Put Shirley Babashoff (and/or that picture of the relay team) on the cover of Swimming World...and keep up the pressure on the international swimming community to provide some formal acknowledgement and restitution to the women who were cheated out of medals at that Olympic Games...and not just the Americans. There was a huge impact on Canadian and Dutch swimming as well. Is there a way to allow your readers to see the original coverage of the freestle relay on your website? Perhaps a podcast?? That would be a fantastic way to show a new generation of swimmers what was perhaps the single greatest moment in American women's swimming history. Thanks again, Andy Cinoman Coralville, IA Feel free to publish this email if you are still doing so...
Hi, I am an off-and-on type masters swimmer who was a high school swimmer at the time of the '76 Olympics. I still remember the feeling of helplessness and disappointment we all shared watching Shirley Babashoff and others getting repeatedly touched out by the obviously cheating East Germans. I'm not sure financial reparations for the swimmer are feasible, in that it would be difficult to accurately assess the loss to each individual, although one could argue that lawsuits for pain and suffering would not be unreasonable. However, perhaps even more satisfying and healing to the athletes and fans alike would be a televised international ceremony with all the true medalists receiving their respective medals and special awards. I even think that, in a gesture of forgiveness and understanding, the East German swimmers should be invited and not have to give back their medals, although they could if they wanted to and found it healing in some way. I have read accounts from some of the East German athletes, who, in addition to having severe medical problems, have their own psychological scars from the whole ordeal, including severe guilt for cheating the true winners out of their deserved rewards. One swimmer even threw her gold medal at the judge in court during the trial against the government officials responsible for the doping. These women were robbed of the satisfaction of knowing what their true potential was, without artificial enhancement. Most were caught between a rock and a hard place and terrified of the consequences of not taking the steroids in a totalatarian regime. Such a ceremony could not only provide powerful healing, but would serve notice to current or prospective cheaters, whether government or individuals, that the international swimming community is fed up with the use of performance enhancing drugs and that justice will be served for those who are caught. By covering the ceremony, the media would also have a chance to make up for their original failure to acknowlege the reality of the scandal, and perhaps the media attention could be parlayed not only into a movie, as someone suggested, but the formation of a foundation, with corporate and other sponsors, specifically dedicated to joining with existing efforts to rid our sport of cheaters once and for all. Jim
Shirley is absolutely right. Those clean female swimmers from the US and elsewhere were cheated of their medals and recognition that they deserved! I hope that the USOC does award them medals for the places that they should have won and the positive recognition for what they earned legally. I was an eighteen year old swimmer the summer of '76 and truly admired the talented US girls. They were amazing! Imagine how their lives could have been enhanced by winning those medals. One only has to look at what winning Olympic Swimming Medals has done for Donna DeVerona, JoHnny Weissmuller, Mark Spitz, John Nabor, Rowdy Gaines, Janet Evans, Summer Sanders and others to imagine what it could have done for the 1976 true winners. Especially Shirley Babashoff, the "Golden Girl", with 5 Golds. To financially compensate 167 swimmers out of the 10.000 athletes is not enough. Shirley is right again. Those who participated in the games without doping and who would have won medals should also be financially compensated and have the results changed as printed in the article. Imagine how much more positive the experience would be in their memory these past 30 years! When the book is written and the movie made, I hope the true winners reap some of the benefits from all of their hard work and dedication so long ago. Thank you for the recognition for those deserving Beautiful (not Ugly ) American Swimmers. -- Glee
I was near tears reading Shirley Babashoff's words and feeling her frustration and hurt. I remember those Olympics as if they were yesterday and the infamous quote from one of the DDR coaches after their women's voices in the locker room caused fright from the other female swimmers (assuming men were in the facility)...."We have come to swim! Not to sing!" Such arrogance..... Babashoff is right. That 1976 team deserves their day of recognition. The United States swimming community must take this banner up and force the USOC to step up and take action ASAP. -- Anonymous
Thank you so much for the article on all of our '76 Olympic Champions. In particular I want to express my heartfelt thanks for remembering Kim. We were friends, at times teammates, and she has always stayed in my heart. One of the saddest days of my life was the day Kim's Dad called my mother. The news was tragic. Kim had passed away. She was a great woman and a great athlete. Thank you again for remembering her in your article. Best Regards, William
In Women's 400IM, Canadian Cheryl Gibson would also have set a World Record. -- Rob
I have already written to the USA Olympic committee to try to get something done. I got no answer. I am just a concerned swim coach that feels like if they are going to set some of the record straight, they need to go all the way. If Germany is willing to admit they cheated and erase the records, then the medals should go to the right people. Look at the results this is not just a DDR and USA problem there were a lot of people affected. Thanks! - Eric
Amazing article on the East Germans. It would be interesting to see the statistics on their height and weight as compared to the Americans. Good job! - Laura
Hi! Your article is interesting, in that it brings out what our major media once again will not cover: vindication of American activity. This Olympic debacle smacks of the same kind of reporting that Walter Duranty did for the NY Times on mother Russia. However, like a lot of past wrongs and injustices, I think the offended may be best served by letting it go. Yes, it gnaws at Americans, like the boxing refereeing in those days, and the ice skating judging, and the stolen Olympic men's basketball game. But a late medal or acknowledgment will probably not assuage the feelings of having been robbed. That's my take. - Bob
As an Olympian to represent the USA, I am moved, of course. But, as a person who feels grateful to those who represented us, I am so sad for them. I am thankful that this is in the media again and I am even more thankful that you included all the "new" results and the names of those who were there. Nothing too deep coming from me, other than thank you to those young girls who went out and did their best. Their rewards can be in the knowledge that they were clean and can be seen in the thousands of young girls who have raced behind them and were inspired by them, regardless of what the record books say. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Go USA! Crissy (Ahmann) Perham, 1992 Gold and Silver Medalist
Thanks for the article and in particular the interview with Jack Nelson. I was a competitive swimmer, 18 years old, during the '76 Olympics. The whole affair was extremely demoralizing partly, as you point out, because the media refused to address it. I hope that your work can spawn others to push hard on this issue. Doping, of course, has become fundamental to some sports like 'cycling and baseball. And I'm very, very concerned that it will be the basis for the Chinese performance in '08. Will you be investigating that? Thanks again for the work ... outstanding. -- Anonymous
I was only ten at the time this happened to our American Women swim team. I can not imagine how these girls felt when they knew they were swimming against cheats. Honestly, all of these swimmers who were victims from these Olympics should be given replacement Gold, Silver or Bronze medals regardless what country they came from. The deep voices of the East German women swimmers should have been a dead give away to officials at these Olympic Games. It is really sad, that not only were the swimmers who may have won Gold Medals cheated, but it also puts a black eye on the part of the Olympic Games. I think, not only should the swimmers who could have won Gold Medals in 1976 should get Gold Medals now, but also the swimmers who were also cheated at the 1988 Olympic Games as well. Thank You. - Jack
Yes the time has come to recognize and award medals to all the young ladies of "76. And the relay race certainly ranks as perhaps the greatest performace of all time considering the obstacles to be overcome. - Pete
Right on! Too bad this is 30 years too late. Hopefully the appropriate groups will do something to finally pull the dagger out of Shirley's back! Hope the nay sayers are proud of themselves and there professional demeanor exhibited in 1976. I saw Shirley at Olympic Trails in Long Beach a couple of years ago. How she managed to carry herself with such professionalism and dignity for so many years is unbelievable. She really deserved the tremendous ovation she received when she was introduced. She and every other swimmer, US or other, deserve their reward and the accolades that should go with their accomplishments. - Bob
Hi there, I'd like to know if there is some way in which the members of our local USA-Swimming Team could write letters to the surviving members of the Women's 1976 Olympic Team. Even though we are basically a young team, our swimmers were affected by this story and would like to acknowledge what these young women lived through in 1976 (and, for that matter, since). Perhaps you could contact Shirley and find out what she thinks. Please let me know. Thanks! -- Sue
Thanks for revisiting this story. It is an important piece of history and one with which every coach should be familiar. I have Jack's tape on this event from an ASCA conference. I agree with George Block that we'll see more of this in Beijing. But, who knows, with the chemistry these days it may be undetectable. It will be interesting to watch the Chinese Trials. Keep up the good work. Always. I think you did a great job of recapturing the strength of Jack (and Shirley's) indignity about a situation in which they witnessed first hand, but was portrayed back to the U.S. audience as poor form and bad behavior by our team. Thank goodness (thanks in large part to Swimming World and Phil Whitten) the truth won out. Mike Stott Richmond, VA Swimming World USA Contributor -- Anonymous
If these athletes are in fact being compensated for doping, then the IOC should strip them of their medals and give those medals to those who actually deserve them. -- Anonymous
My married name is Donnnalee Carlson but I am Donnalee Wennerstrom from the 1976 Olympic team. I would have a bronze medal in the 400 IM if the East Germans were disqualified. I think the whole thing is very sad for both the East German women as well as we Americans. I have to agree with Shirley that there should be some acknowledgement given to the American women for what they accomplished! All of us put our hearts and souls into our Olympic races and it was terrible to be cheated out of our medals as well as be vilified for stating the obvious about the DDR women being on steroids. And believe me, it was very obvious that the East German women had been taking performance enhancers! I think it's fair some of the East German women are being compensated for the crimes committed against them. I'm sure that whatever they get it will never make up for what they suffered. But, the American women's sorrow and pain has never been acknowledged and has indeed been swept under the rug. Think about the hard work and sacrifice it takes to make the USA Olympic swim team! Then think about the shattered dreams! Now its come out that we were performed as we should have but the attitude is "Oh well, no use crying over spilled milk". And it is spilled milk but our efforts could and should be acknowledged. Tell Shirley I'm with her! If she wants any help you are free to give her my e-mail address. Thanks for writing about this subject. Sincerely, Donnalee
She is absolutely right! And justice still needs to be done! - Ralph
In 76 it seems the home team was shafted just as bad in raw numbers, which given Canada's much smaller population shows the coaches and athletes of that era got it right with respect to training and competition, the Dutch women also got the short end of the stick too. The Russians by their own admission were not as good at nor as systematic as the East Germans in doping their athletes. Suffice it to say that a lot of hard working athletes were cheated of their rightful accolades. Since when have 3 Canadian swimmers swept the medals in one event in the Olympics (when 3 were still allowed). These days it would be monumental for us to sweep an event at Commonwealths or to have more than the average number of medals in one Olympics.... Simpson
Thank you for your excellent article on Shirley Babashoff. I can't stop re-reading it, as its tone is as haunting as the Games were to our women's swimming team. I remember that relay event like it was yesterday, having watched it on TV. I'll never forget the look on Shirley's face as she mounted the blocks to swim anchor. At that point I knew the USA would win. As a U.S. Master's swimmer, I had the pleasure of going to Montreal in 1994 to attend the World Masters Championships. Of course, it was held in the same venue as the 1976 Games. During the entire time I was in that natatorium, all I could think about was that race. It was like a cloud hanging over; I felt like the room was filled with the ghosts of the people who had cheered for one of the greatest upsets and moral victories in swimming history. We can only hope and pray that those swimmers who deserved medals at those Games will get them. It is too bad that one of the members of that awesome relay is deceased. But at least maybe the others can get what they worked so hard for. - Luanne
This was a great article. I hope the girls who were cheated out of all of there hard work can finally be recognized. - James
Nice article. Shirley and the rest of the female swimmers from those games finally have gotten their due. Shirley is long over due for the recognition she deserves from the swimming community and anything short of a standing ovation at the '08 Trials is not enough. Again, good job. William
Thank you for the report and comments by Ms Babashoff. It has taken years for the truth to be revealed. Her honesty and frustration at the time is understandable. Her silence over the years shows more about her character than her earlier statements. If IOC will not award "something" to her and the other women cheated perhaps the international swimming community could come up with an appropriate award to recognize their outstanding efforts. Thank you, - Terry
USA Swimming, as well as the USOC should fund legal counsel to seek Olympic medal redemption for the athletes (Shirley Babashoff, et al) of the 1976 USA Women's Olympic Swimming Team. The aforementioned organizations, who should represent the best interests of our athletes, as well, place pressure on the IOC to award duplicate medals to all concerned. It is the only right and ethical thing to do for USA Swimming and the USOC to unify in a tour de force against the IOC to bring those medals home to the United States of America. Additionally, there should be a formal ceremony whereby the USOC and IOC award these medals to our heroes of Montreal 1976. A failure to act, immediately, in the best interest of our 1976 Women's Olympic Team is to be complicit with the illegal and unethical actions of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). - Don
Great work on this article...a shame there is not more restitution from our end, and criminal that the international community has not done something as well. all the best in '07. Craig