They Cheated. They Stole. They Lied.


By Brent Rutemiller

PHOENIX, Arizona, December 13. They set records. They became famous. They became rich.

They cheated. They stole. They lied.

They were idolized. They were paraded. They were crowned.

They cheated. They stole. They lied.

Marion Jones and the 1976 East Germans have a lot in common.

They cheated. They stole. They lied.

The only difference is that the East Germans get to keep their medals and records and Marion Jones must give them up. All because the International Olympic Committee voted to not overturn results older than 8 years.

That news is tough to swallow for people like Shirley Babashoff. When asked by this writer about Marion Jones, Babashoff said, “I think she should keep them (medals). There is no difference.” After an awkward pause of silence, she quipped in her classic sarcastic way, “Yeah, Right!”

People are taught that hindsight is supposed to be 20/20; that time is supposed to heal all wounds and it is never too late to right a wrong. However, the IOC has deemed that its vision will not get any better after 8 years; that wounds need only 8 years to heal for those who were cheated, lied to and robbed; and that 8 years is plenty of time to right a wrong.

As a member of the USA Women’s Olympic Swim Team, Shirley Babashoff 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.

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. Instead, she got roasted.

As reported almost a year ago, one hundred and sixty-seven former East German (DDR) athletes were financially compensated through Germany’s Olympic Committee for the systematic doping of DDR athletes from 1973 through 1989.

What more proof does the IOC need? Oh… the IOC 8 year rule.

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.

What more proof does the IOC need? Oh… the IOC 8 year rule.

The East German state-orchestrated drug program claimed titles in 10 out of 11 swimming races at the 1976 Games.

What more proof does the IOC need? Oh… the IOC 8 year rule.

Still the fact remains that the record book is tainted. Not by one athlete, but by an entire team.

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 or simply that the case was… uh, older than 8 years.

In her own words from an earlier interview with this writer, 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.

The first step is for the general public to demand that the International Olympic Committee rescind the 8 year rule allowing for the revision of the record books.

Do you think there should be a statute of limitations on going after drug cheats? Should the IOC change the eight year rule? Please add your comments in Reaction Time below.

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