Three-time Olympic Gold Medalist 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games; 1980 Olympic Team Member; United States Swim Team; OATH Honorary Board Member
Hearing on the Use of Performance Enhancing Drugs in Olympic Competition
Before the Full Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation United States Senate
October 20, 1999
Dear Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee;
I am honored to have the opportunity to testify before this Committee today. My name is Nancy Hogshead, and I represented the United States Swim Team at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics where I became a three-time Olympic Champion and four-time medalist. I am an Honorary Board Member of OATH (Olympic Advocates Together Honorably), the world’s leading independent athlete-centered movement which brings together stakeholders of the Olympic Movement creating an open debate and forum for discussion. Its mission is also to restore and maintain the values underlying the Fundamental Principles of the Olympic Charter and to promote ethical guardianship, responsible governance and effective management of the Olympic Movement. I am also the former President of The Women’s Sports Foundation and am currently practicing law for the firm of Holland & Knight LLP.
As someone who has experienced Olympic competition first-hand, I am keenly aware of the athletes are especially concerned about the doping crises facing the Olympic Movement. Through the many years of preparation and training for the Olympics, and ultimately winning three gold medals, I realized the incredible power of the Olympics. Now, I want to ensure that as a public trust it continues to thrive for generations of aspiring young athletes to come.
Athletes are the heart of the Olympics. It is their dreams, their will, their spirit and their performances that make the Games the spectacle they are and which give the Movement its soul. It is the athletes’ honest blood, sweat and tears that has sustained and hopefully will continue to sustain the Olympic movement. Athletes live the Olympic dream and our voice provides a credible point-of-view not only in the clean up of doping in sport but in the clean up of the Olympic Movement.
A crucial question at this time is whether the International Olympic Committee (IOC) can reform itself. To date the evidence is lacking that it has the will or the ability to do what needs to be done.
The IOC has enormous potential. The Olympic Movement, however, faces two morale crises: the crisis of corruption, and the crisis of doping, either which have the potential to destroy it.
Corruption in the Olympic Movement became public knowledge when information was made available to the media about bribes, which were sought and paid in awarding the 2002 Winter Olympic Games to Salt Lake City. A handful of IOC members have resigned rather that face expulsion, but the IOC’s response to the corruption crisis has been late, inadequate and inconsequential. It has now come to light that similar events occurred with the Atlanta Bid.
The IOC is naturally in tension with itself. On one hand, the IOC represents ethics and values that make it a player on the stage for peace and world cooperation. On the other hand, it manages a sports empire worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Every two years, it presides over a vast international sporting festival which brings tens of thousands of the world’s athletes and media together and which in turn generates tens of billions of dollars in revenue for cities, media outlets and sponsors. At times, the values that make the IOC so noble conflict with the organization’s money generating efforts. The doping issue clearly demonstrates this natural tension.
For the purposes of this testimony I will focus on the doping crisis and the need for a meaningful role for athletes on this issue.
Doping is first and foremost an athletes’ issue. It is a scourge that afflicts all athletes — those who are clean and those who are not — those on the podium and those who dream of greatness on the fields and arenas around the world. All Olympic medals end up being tarnished by the sad acts of a few. Great Olympic performances like that of Florence Griffith Joyner’s feat are undermined by whispers, whispers of use of performance-enhancing drugs. It ruins the lives, reputations and health of thousands of athletes worldwide, and it erodes the public trust in the Olympic Movement.
Doping could destroy the Olympic Movement. Public support for the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement rests in large measure on the belief that Olympic sport embodies the highest set of values.
From the early 1970’s to the late 1980’s there were repeated accusations by swimming experts that the East German swim team was using steroids, however the IOC did nothing to prevent them from taking home Olympic Gold Medals and setting new world records. Few athletes spoke out because in the public’s naive eye it was classified as “poor sportsmanship”. By example, Shirley Babashoff who competed for the United States Swim Team at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games won 4 silver medals and watched the East German swimmers walk away with the gold medals. Babashoff did speak out and was brandished a sore loser, “Surly Shirley” the press dubbed her.
While the East Germans had a systematic doping program for their swimmers and for virtually all of their world-class athletes, the IOC turned a blind eye for decades. They allowed steroid assisted athletes to go home with Olympic medals. It was only thanks to an independent, outside voice that the steroid use was investigated at all. Swimming World Magazine obtained and published Stasi Files in 1993 which indicated that the T/E ratio of four of the top East German swimmers, including 1988 six-time Olympic Gold Medalist and hero Kristine Otto, were all above the acceptable 6/1 level during an internal, pre-competition doping check-up, clearly indicating that they used illegal steroids to enhance their performance. East German doctors utilized clearance curves for each swimmer to discern when the athlete’s T/E level dropped back to normal, thus enabling the athletes to take drugs during training, discontinue the drugs prior to competitions and turn in clean drug tests administered at competitions.
After the East German situation was exposed by Swimming World Magazine, the problem moved to China and the same pattern repeated itself. Again, the IOC took no action against this flagrant cheating. As evidenced in the above, the doping crisis has been prevalent since the 1970’s. The IOC’s response to it has been terribly late, inadequate and inconsequential. Now is time for the stakeholders of this public trust to take the leadership role in establishing an anti-doping agency. Now is the time to ensure that not only is a new agency fully independent, but that it is accountable and open to public scrutiny. The IOC has already wasted decades on this massive problem, and now it is time to put doping in the hands of an independent body of experts whose only motive is to clean up Olympic competition for future generations of athletes. Now is the time to ensure the public trust in the Olympic Movement is restored.
Doping is not a crisis of medicine or science, but rather a crisis of sport ethics and values. First, the judgement that a particular substance or activity is “doping” is an ethical judgement. New doping control measures must be rooted in sport ethics and values; they must flow from athlete agreement; they must respect athletes’ rights to privacy; and all efforts are in vain unless and until anti-doping measures are independently, accountably and fairly administered and testing is performed out-of-competition, year-round, unannounced and random.
The IOC could have been leaders in a vigorous, concerted and world-wide effort to eliminate doping. It has not. The IOC could have led the world in creating a credible, ethics-based, independent, accountable organization to lead the fight against doping. It did not. Instead, it originally proposed an agency, based in Lausanne and to be headed by the IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch. That idea was rejected by the delegates to the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Lausanne in February of 1999. The IOC has since created a “Medical Commission” without a medical expert as its leader and once again was accountable and answerable to no one. The IOC has failed to reach agreement and the current proposal, based on early discussions and still very much in its infancy stage, is for an agency based in Lausanne, with as yet to be determined partnerships and relations with other agencies or national governments. The IOC has not responded with a proposal for a world agency that would bring together the requisite anti-doping partners; the experts, the governmental liaisons, the International Sports Federations, and the athletes. In the meantime, the lives, reputations and health of countless athletes around the world have been suffered.
Throughout this internal dialogue the IOC is having with itself, the IOC has not reached out to the effected athletes nor to the expert anti-doping agencies who currently conduct successful out-of-competition, random, unannounced, drug-testing. Seven countries (Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, and New Zealand) have worked together to create common standards and protocols. They have experience running effective, open, and accountable testing programs. Has the IOC tapped into their collective wisdom? No.
Until now, the conceptual structure of anti-doping efforts has been the creation of rules based on ill-defined criteria, which are then imposed on athletes from above. Unless the IOC seeks active and informed athlete agreement and consensus, the fight against doping is doomed to the same fate as the IOC’s war in the defense of amateurism. The IOC recently published the Olympic Movement Anti-Doping Code, which we find inadequate in key areas:
Doping control can only be accomplished by effective out-of-competition, year-round, random and no-notice testing. The IOC code refers to such testing but offers no indication of how that testing would be carried out to ensure fairness, effectiveness and respect for the privacy and dignity of athletes.
The proposed anti-doping agency needs to be independent, open to public scrutiny and accountable in order to be credible. For this credibility, the IOC must be prepared to relinquish control of the new agency in order to secure its independence. The natural tension between doping detection and profit-making must be removed from within IOC’s.
Athletes around the world who compete in summer and winter Olympic sports are in favor of anti-doping measures. They want a level playing field. Members of the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission are proposing a “Doping Passport” which would be an accessible and public indication of an athlete’s availability for and history of doping tests. While the details of the “Doping Passport” have yet to be worked out, the creation of an athlete agreement to end doping and accept the testing required to enforce a level and clean playing field are critical in eliminating doping.
OATH, as the world’s leading independent, international athlete-centered organization of stakeholders and experts, can facilitate such undertakings. OATH started as a gathering of advocates who believed in or had lived that Olympic dream. OATH members want to pass on something better than the current corruption – something grand and noble; OATH members want an Olympic Movement which they can be proud of and into which they are happy to lead their children and their neighbors.