Exclusive: Shirley Babashoff Breaks 30-Year Silence on East Germany’s Systematic Doping of Olympians

By Brent Rutemiller

PHOENIX, Arizona, January 9. 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 ‘76 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.

Send comments on this article to: Brent Rutemiller
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If the record books were to be revised this would be the final medal standings:
100 Free
JULY 19, 1976
OLYMPIC FINALISTS
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
*World Record

200 Free
JULY 22, 1976
OLYMPIC FINALISTS
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
*World Record

400 Free
JULY 20, 1976
OLYMPIC FINALISTS
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
*World Record

800 Free
JULY 25, 1976
WORLD RECORD
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
OLYMPIC FINALISTS
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
*World Record

100 Back
JULY 21, 1976
OLYMPIC FINALISTS
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

200 Back
JULY 25, 1976
OLYMPIC FINALISTS
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

100 Breast
JULY 24, 1976
OLYMPIC FINALISTS
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
*World Record

200 Breast
JULY 21, 1976
OLYMPIC FINALISTS
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
*World Record

100 Fly
JULY 22, 1976
OLYMPIC FINALISTS
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

200 Fly
JULY 19, 1976
OLYMPIC FINALISTS
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

TamaraShelofastova, 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

400 IM
JULY 24, 1976
OLYMPIC FINALISTS
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
*World Record

400 Medley Relay
JULY 18, 1976
OLYMPIC FINALISTS
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)
*World Record

400 Free Relay
JULY 25
WORLD RECORD
Berlin Dynamo, DDR
Krause Seltmann Gabriel Pollack
56.59 1:54.31 (57.72) 2:52.44 (58.13) 3:48.80 (56.36)
OLYMPIC FINALISTS
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)
*World Record

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
Unattached
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
Louisville Tarpons
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
Louisville Tarpons
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
Dayton Dolphins
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
Modesto
100 Breast, 1:14.56; 200 Breast, 2:38.75

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