Passages: Olympic Gold Medalist Andrea Pollack Passes Away from Cancer

Photo Courtesy: Swimming World Magazine

Three-time Olympic gold medalist Andrea Pollack passed away March 13 after a battle with cancer. She was 57.

Pollack won the gold medal in the 200 butterfly in the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games for East Germany when she was just 15. She also swam the butterfly leg on East Germany’s gold medal 4×100 medley relays in the Montreal Games and in the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.


Photo Courtesy: International Swimming Hall of Fame

She also won three silver medals in her Olympic career as she was second in the 100 fly in 1976 behind world record setter Kornelia Ender and again in 1980 behind Caren Metschuck. She also swam the third leg of the now-famous 4×100 free relay for East Germany that got the silver medal behind the Americans in 1976.

Pollack also broke the world record in the 100 fly on July 3, 1978 with a 59.46. She was also the first woman ever to break 2:10 in the 200 fly with a 2:09.87 the very next day in East Berlin. She was the last German to hold a world record in that event. The 200 record was tied a couple weeks later by American Tracy Caulkins. Mary T. Meagher would break both of Pollack’s world records in 1979.

Pollack was one of several East German swimmers in 1998 to publicly accuse their coaches and physicians of giving them performance-enhancing drugs without knowledge. The doctors were charged with causing bodily harm to 19 teenagers by giving them anabolic steroids without informing them or their parents.

Pollack was on the cover of Swimming World in August 1978 with fellow East German Barbara Krause. Pollack was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1987.


  1. Carole Machol-Atler

    While sad she passed away from cancer; why is she in the HOF knowing that her records were tainted by the PEDs? She may have won golds and set world records but were they “honest” wins?

    • Stephen Cox

      Carole Machol-Atler not the place

    • Loren Taylor

      Carole Machol-Atler how insensitive.

    • avatar

      I agree.

      • avatar
        Hans Witolla

        Her passing is sad. Comments demeaning her are unwarranted here. Her accomplishments were achieved without intent to cheat on her part.

    • avatar

      I think Carole Machol-Atler makes a valid point, the timing of which was up to her, and not for others to judge.

  2. Léo Grova

    Carole Machol-Atler, the right spot and timming to bring those issues…
    Do this – imagine that it was your child that passed away…

  3. Joan Sauvigne Kirsch

    It is quite possible that the drugs they gave her as a teen contributed to her early demise

  4. Karin Deleuran

    Very sad news. I suspect they (the DDR swimmers) most likely didn’t know what their coaches told them to take….. and who would dare to say no at the time anyway??? I’m glad I was a Danish ‘76 Olympic swimmer who had a choice to take no steroids (and got no medals), and I feel so sorry for my fellow Olympian female DDR swimmers in particular that most likely did not have the choice to say no.
    Andrea, may you Rest In Peace.

    • Rolf Linse

      Lynette Besonday-Washburn It wasn’t her fault. At that time, their coaches gave them blue pills telling them these were vitamins. But these “vitamins” were “Oralturinabol”, an anabolic Steroide.

    • Johnny Karnofsky

      The athletes that have since come forward; have cited side effects of varying levels, including infertility and children with birth defects that have all been linked to what they were given without their knowledge at the time….

  5. Maureen Fluehr Carll

    I remember her,sad.In all likelihood as a 15 year old she had no idea,she believed and trained like she was ordered to do.RIP.Much too young.

    • Hank Van Kalmthout

      Wendy Lansbach Boglioli I am sure this hits close to home. Hugs to al that knew her and god bless the sport of competitive swimming and it’s stars and champions ???????

    • Wendy Lansbach Boglioli

      Hank Van Kalmthout awwwh… thank you ! I am sure that Andrea understood what happened to her. She was a victim of child abuse at a level in sports that continues today! I am sad for her and her family. RIP

  6. Elke Holtz

    Great person and swimmer. Paying for the purpose of a system.

    • avatar
      Paige Zemina Northcutt

      Elka, I remember you from back in the day.. I’m Paige Zemina

  7. Jim Avery

    I remember her very well she was quick RIP..

  8. avatar

    This is very sad news. Tied to the systematic doping?? Rest in peace…

  9. Johnny Karnofsky

    The whole team representing East Germany were drugged systematically, with or without the knowledge or consent of the athletes….. I suggest watching “The Last Gold” to learn more about how the other athletes were cheated out of the record books and off the podium.. FINA and the IOC needs to step up, review those events in 72 and 76 where athletes representing East Germany won or set records, scratch those performances and redistribute medals and rewrite the record books as if those performances EVER HAPPENED…. they did it to Lance Armstrong when he came forward with the truth about his own use of banned drugs…. What’s different here, except that he knew what he was doing at the time and came forward when he knew he was in too deep?

    • Elke Holtz

      Era súper increíble persona. La conocí en el
      mundial de Berlín y en Moscú. Otra víctima del

  10. Gary Ireland

    Beautiful girl

  11. Connie Sharpe Ruohomaki

    This woman had significant influence on the overall state of athletes. Interesting Start. She’s half way through her stroke before she gets in the water. Interesting.

  12. Jeff Elfont

    A tragedy, perhaps correlated to steroid use by the DDR.

  13. avatar
    Ann Inge

    Very sad news. No doubt from the abuse of her coaches lying to her about the vitamins etc. Such a waste of life at somebody else’s hand, they should be held accountable. I lost races to her whenever I swam with the East Germans, they looked like women but sounded like men and had the physique of a man. RIP Andrea, taken far too soon.