Today, on the fourth of a five-day call to the International Olympic Committee to make things right regarding the drug-fueled East Germans of the 70s and 80s, we present to you some of the strongest reactions to our landmark decision to strip the East Germans of the World and European Swimmers of the Year awards.
The swimming community has been on fire in social media and interpersonally since we first made it known that we had stripped the East Germans of 28 of our annual awards, and we present some of the strongest responses to you today.
What has been surprising, however, is the silence we have received from the various national federations that would be in line to gain medals of the IOC followed suit by reallocating medals from the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
USA Swimming is the only federation to stand up regarding this issue as USA Swimming President Bruce Stratton responded with the following statement:
“The issues surrounding the alleged drug use of the East German swimmers have been extremely complex. This is a sensitive topic that has affected our swimming community, especially the athletes competing during that time period. USA Swimming is always in support of keeping the sport of swimming clean from illegal drug use. If there was doping involved in the achievement of past Olympic medals or records, we believe that the medals should be stripped and the records should be invalidated.”
That’s about as close as a national federation will get to actually fighting this issue. Stratton and USA Swimming are still careful to formulate their response with qualifying terms like “alleged” and “if.” Although, the German government has already admitted it happened by way of its settlement with its abused athletes.
Stratton does, however, go on record as supporting that the IOC should strip East Germans of their medals and records “if there was doping involved.” If you run that through an if/then formula, Stratton and USA Swimming do support a loss of the East German Olympic medals and records because there was doping involved.
The Royal Dutch Swimming Federation has not responded to inquiries sent a week ago. Swimming Canada spokesperson Nathan White did reply, but stated that Swimming Canada felt this was an issue for the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC). The COC has yet to respond to a request for comment on Swimming World’s decision. Additionally, the IOC has yet to respond to a request from Swimming World regarding the issue.
However, not every response has been positive as we have received some e-mail telling us we will burn in hell for stripping the East Germans of our awards, or that we are restarting the Cold War with our decision.
Three swimmers directly impacted by the East German doping machine have registered emotional responses.
1976 Olympian, gold in 400 free relay, bronze in 100 fly
Currently a motivational speaker and activist regarding the East German tragedy at the Olympic level.
Let me start by saying again, that this to me is a complicated issue on many levels and certainly an emotional one as well. As dominant as the Eastern Bloc countries performances were, our Olympic Gold Medal allowed me to look back with some positive affirmations of my hard work and efforts. You know what is interesting for me about that relay Gold (and let’s not forget that had Barbara Krause been in the East German lineup as she was supposed to be, the outcome for us may very well have been quite different), is that it gave me validation, not as a person but validation of my efforts and it did take the “edge off” to some degree.
But as I looked around at my teammates who were not so lucky I could absolutely sympathize with them because I had my Gold and I had my bronze in the 100 fly. They came back with nothing, and all of these years later most of the U.S. women will tell you that that experience in Montreal was awful.
As great as our relay was that night in Canada and what we accomplished that night knowing what we know about the women we competed against, it really is an amazing accomplishment. But, it was a devastating week for every one of my 21 teammates, myself included. There is no way around that.
We took a lot of heat that week and weeks and months to follow. We were called the UGLY AMERICANS, horrible articles were printed, nasty letters found their way in to my mail box, how terrible it was that the U.S. Women’s Swim Team was picking on these poor East German women, these young women who just trained harder and better and longer than we did! You hear that long and hard enough, and let me tell you, the Wonderful Olympic Experience is not so wonderful after all.
It was the fact that we all trained so hard and if it had been a level playing field, the loss would have been tough but there still would have been some level of satisfaction.
From where I stood all of those years ago, and maybe it was because I was the second oldest on the team, I was married, my maturity may have helped me as well, but I could certainly recognize not only were they cheating but for the first time in Olympic History a calculated, formulated Systematic Doping Program had been established to substantially change the outcome of the Olympic GAMES!
I could not believe it then and certainly after all of these years and proof later how the IOC has not recognized this as well. After all, it is the IOC that has set the standards and the Rules of Play. For them, as well as the USOC and USA Swimming to not take any responsibility to the hundreds of clean athletes is an absolute mockery of what the Olympics stand for. Doctors and coaches were tried, criminal charges were given, people were going to jail and yet the feet have dragged for more than 20 years after the Wall came down.
When I traveled to Berlin several years ago to be a part of television program Doping for Gold, it was an astounding yet not shocking discovery. I witnessed first-hand with many of the East German women just what they went through, the abuse, their lifestyle, their lives all for their country.
PBS Doping for Gold Television Broadcast
Yes, many did not know what was happening to them, but many more did recognize that something was different. To this day, Petra Thumer claims she did nothing wrong and her medals will remain with her as she told me, she worked just as hard, if not harder than anybody else. She also told me privately in our many conversations during the course of that week of filming that they were told we were all taking drugs too. So it was her way of saying and justifying what was going on with her swimming, training and her body.
I went to East Germany in the fall of 1977 as part of the U.S. National Team to swim against them and the Russians in a dual meet. There, I saw Kornelia Ender and Barbara Krause. Both very kind to me…in fact for several years after our first children were born, we exchanged baby gifts with one another. I lost touch with Ender many years ago. Barbara Krause and I shared a number of conversations in 1977 but she denied drug use of any kind. We exchanged numbers and some T-shirts…but I think we both knew from that point on we would no longer speak.
After the Wall came down in the early 90s, I was at a fundraiser in Seattle. A very well-known USOC member pulled me aside and told me flat out “Wendy, it is better that you do not continue to go down the road trying to get the record books changed and Olympic medals returned because it will not happen..” I asked him why that would be and he began to tell me that it would look ridiculous for the United States to take that stance when today we have our own U.S. athletes on drugs! I could not believe this man was telling me this. Can you imagine that? The reason and maybe it was the only one, that the USOC would not defend any of their own athletes when it came to Montreal, was that now U.S athletes were taking PEDs?
I also made a call in those early 90s to a well-known IOC member. She began to tell me that the IOC, even though the reports are out, and the Stasi papers are proof, it would be “too difficult” to go back after all of the years and make changes in standings!
The conversation was very short and I knew right then and there that the IOC would not take any responsibility for this whatsoever.
It was no longer about medals being returned at that point, that was actually beside the point. I became an activist on this during Montreal and I continue to do it today.
For me, it is absolutely about preserving the Integrity of the Games, clean and fair play, ethics and all of the qualities that embody The Olympics. It is what they stand for and what I as an athlete wanted to be a part of since I was 8 years old!
I realized that the IOC, USOC and U.S. Swimming made the real stand. The toleration of doping was upon us, and there is today a Win at all Costs attitude, as seen by East Germany all those years ago, Lance Armstrong and so many others after and in between. It is very clear to me that the Line in the Sand is all but washed away. It is very sad.
I think the efforts by USADA and WADA are so commendable, they are working so hard to catch those cheats, but the real issue is why do people do it in the first place. It used to be cheating was a few here and there, now it is becoming quite the norm. I think Montreal really was the Stage for what would become Norm, and let’s face it, one doesn’t have to look too far or wide to see it in sports every single day. It is a shame that regardless who the athlete is today, that you do have to wonder if that person is “on’ anything.
There are 2 aspects to sports I think.
One is it started out to teach and to teach children values, team work, fair play, ethics, discipline all of the things in life that we need in life right? Sports mirrors Life right?
The other aspect of sports is Entertainment. So you see, if we all look at sports, Olympic, professional sports as entertainment, which so many people do, then rules really need not apply. People really don’t care if anyone is taking any drugs to win. It’s kind of like that Magician who has all the wires and things hooked up to him and yet we really can’t see those things, and all of the sudden he does something amazing and people love that. They don’t care how he fell from that building or how many wires he needed to have attached to do that feat, they just know that it was GREAT. So rules don’t apply!
To me it is a moral issue and always has been and always will be. And, to me the IOC, USOC and other National Governing Bodies have made their rules, and if you do not want to play by the rules you may not play! Well, that is what they said, and for most of us we did it just that way because morally, ethically it is RIGHT.
So here are these organizations that made the rules right? The proof in the specific cases of East Germany in Montreal, they broke the rules and yet the IOC is stepping back and basically telling the world, that cheating is okay, there will not be consequences and certainly in our case of Montreal, “This is just too difficult and cumbersome to bother with.”
Rather what the IOC should have said 20 years ago when the information and proof was out there, and certainly today , is this “if it takes us years and years and we find out you cheated, there will be consequences.” Rather they choose to walk away from their responsibility from every athlete that ever competed under their jurisdiction, both cheaters and the clean ones. They owe it to every single athlete that ever competed in the Olympic Games…every single one to make this wrong right.
Jennifer Hooker Brinegar, USA
1976 Olympian, sixth in 200 free, preliminary swimmer for U.S. gold medal in 400 free relay
Currently Senior Assistant Athletic Director for Enrollment Services at Indiana University
Wow! Reading this made me very emotional. I didn’t realize the original Facebook posting was going to be part of a series. I’m going to go online to read all that Swimming World has posted. I look forward to this last post [published tomorrow] and hope that the USOC and USA Swimming join in the magazine’s call to the IOC to set this record straight once and for all. There has been documented scientific PROOF of the doping since the Wall fell in late 1989. It is a travesty that this was not dealt with when the GDR documents were uncovered and released to the public in the 1990s.
While I have been an open advocate about righting this wrong for a long time, this is not about me. As one of my swimmer’s parents said to me tonight, “well I guess you are now 5th.” In other words, big deal. Exactly. Coming from Bloomington, Indiana, and watching the Indiana University swimmers (for Team USA) get mostly gold medals in 1968 and 1972, not being on the podium as a United States swimmer is considered by many (specifically, me) to be a loss. 4th-8th place finishers at the Olympics get nothing. Never have, never will. All participants get a participant’s medal, but if you’re not top three, you don’t get anything for being in the finals. So, while I was there, I was not really affected by the GDR doping as it was my first international competition and I did beat two out of the three East German swimmers in my event.
As noted in your articles, the second-fastest East German in the 200 Free, Barbara Krause, was left back home…allegedly due to strep throat. Even though I had just turned 15, it was my first international competition, and I was pretty naive, I knew at the time that strep throat doesn’t keep you out of a two-week competition that you show up for one week before it even starts. I figured she either wouldn’t pass a drug test or the GDR wanted to ensure that Kornelia Ender was not threatened by her own teammate. The ’76 Olympics were clearly dominated by Ender and then the very next year, Barbara Krause was the premier East German swimmer.
I also got lucky as a result of all the negativity affecting the older women swimmers as I was asked to swim in the prelims of the 4 x 100 Freestyle relay for Shirley [Babashoff] so she could sleep in (as she had the 800 finals that evening before the relay), even though I had not qualified as a relay alternate. So, I’m now considered a gold medalist even though I’m really technically not (in the minds of most swimmers from the 60s and 70s) because I don’t have a gold medal like the preliminary swimmers and runners get for “team” events (aka relays) since the 1984 Olympics when the rules changed.
But back to the issue at hand. This is about Shirley mostly and the others (not just other Americans such as Wendy Boglioli, Karen Moe Humphries, Camile Wright, Kim Peyton, Wendy Weinberg, Melissa Belote, Donnalee Wennerstrom, Linda Jezek and Lauri Siering, but also Australian, Canadian, Dutch and New Zealand swimmers) who were cheated out of an Olympic experience (being on the podium or winning a gold or silver medal) and then condemned by the media from our own country for daring to suggest or complain about what was obvious (as it so often is noted by those on deck or from pictures in the media even before the test results come in).
This completely changed Shirley’s life. The only way to even try to make it up to her is to give her the gold medals she earned and deserved … and in an IOC/USOC sponsored ceremony, with the women’s AND men’s team present. Although by now, I’m sure even those medals would seem tainted to her. For those who don’t know, Shirley WON (dominated is a better word) the 100, 200, 400 and 800 freestyle races AND the 400 IM at the U.S. Olympic Trials. Name ONE male or female swimmer who has done that (100-800 and the 400 IM). In comparison, what would people say if Phelps had broken world records, but got beaten in each of his eight races in 2008 by swimmers who were obviously taking PEDs. That is pretty much what happened to Shirley, but instead of coming to her defense, America attacked her when she was already the victim.
There is so much more to this story. First of all, in his defense, Mark Schubert did what he could. He, too, was vilified for raising the issue that the GDR swimmers were taking PEDs. Unfortunately for all of us on that team, but especially Shirley and her Mission Viejo teammates (Maryanne Graham, Nicole Kramer and Marcia Morey) on the team (along with Casey Converse and Brian Goodell on the men’s team), Mark was NOT one of the coaches. Another travesty.
While I had not yet moved to Mission Viejo to swim for him, I knew that he had six swimmers on the U.S. team. I also was aware that the coaches (of the women’s team) were not happy that he was in daily phone contact with Shirley and Nicole Kramer (who were roommates directly across the hall from me while we trained at West Point). So, while Shirley was getting beat up in the media, she did not even have face-to-face access to the person most responsible (other than herself, of course) for getting her to that point. If Schubert had been named an assistant, just by the mere fact of having four of the 24 or so women on the team, I can assure you that the women’s team as a whole would have done better. But that story will be told at another time.
Again, just another reason why what Shirley did was so amazing. She never gave up. Unfortunately, some of the other swimmers on the team did. This is not an indictment on them. Most people in their situation would have done the same. Had the GDR not dominated in and out of the water, I can guarantee that the women would have had plenty of 1-2-3 finishes, just like the men’s team did. The four strongest (mentally and physically) women on that team showed on the last day what the U.S. women were capable of by beating the East Germans head-to-head and destroying the world record in the process. As a side note, the TV announcers did not note the amazing leg by 15 year old Jill Sterkel. While Kim Peyton swam a strong lead-off leg and Wendy Boglioli broke 56 seconds on her split, it was Sterkel who had the fastest split of all four Americans (55.78) AND who put the Americans in a very comfortable lead for Shirley to anchor (after swimming the 800 and getting a heart-breaking second place finish yet again earlier that evening).
Again, I’m just really emotional about this and so very happy with Swimming World for raising this issue and hopefully getting USA Swimming and the USOC to put pressure on the IOC to do the right thing … even if it’s 37 years later! A huge thanks to Swimming World!!!
Annelies Maas, NED
1976, 1980 Olympian, fourth place in 200 free, bronze in 400 free relay
Currently head coach VAT Copenhagen
I competed against three generations of East German women between 1974 and 1983. The moment I specifically remember is in 1977 where Petra Thumer and I swam under the world record in the 400 freestyle. She received the honors, and I finished second. That moment is forever changed now with the East German doping. I went from being delighted to swimming so fast to a feeling of betrayal.
My mother as my former coach tried to get that record recognized for me a short time after the news came out about the systematic doping, but to no avail.
I have no hard feelings towards the girls I compete against; they were victims themselves. But, according to my opinion, they still had an unlawful advantage and should be stripped of their awards.