The IOC has opened the door to the wrongs of East German doping


Thanks to Jim Thorpe’s decision, the IOC has opened the door to redressing the wrongs of East German doping

So the door is ajar? Is this what the International Olympic Committee suggested? This seems to be the case.

A few days ago, in what can only be described as a tremendous decision, the IOC said Jim Thorpe as the sole gold medalist in the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. Prior to the governing body’s announcement, Thorpe was the co-champion of the events, a more than 100-year-old saga surrounding a man considered one of the greatest athletes in history.

A year after overwhelming the opposition at both events in the Swedish capital, Thorpe was stripped of his titles when it was revealed he had accepted money playing professional baseball. Thorpe’s actions violated IOC amateurism rules, and it was not until 1982 that Thorpe’s gold medal status was restored, albeit as co-champion with Norway. Ferdinand Bie in the pentathlon and in Sweden Hugo Wieslander in the decathlon. Thanks to this new decision of the IOC, Bie and Wieslander became silver medalists.

Given that the IOC has righted a past injustice and adjusted the awarding of medals in two events, an obvious question arises: are we one step closer to the IOC righting the wrongs that plagued the Olympic landscape when Germany of the East dominated thanks to the advantages of a systematic doping program? Specifically, do people like Shirley Babashoff finally receive their just due?

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, many operations of the German Democratic Republic came to light. Among them, as the documentation shows, was government oversight of a systematic doping program. From the early 1970s to the late 1980s, East German athletes in all sports received performance-enhancing drugs, including Oral Turinabol, an anabolic steroid.

Not only did the doping process allow athletes to build greater muscle mass, it allowed them to endure grueling training regimens for longer periods of time. The combination has led East Germany to field dominant teams at the Olympics, World Championships and European Championships, teams that have shredded the record books and made competitors look like groups of age.

Christine Otto

Kornelia Ender set 10 consecutive world records in the 100-meter freestyle, slashing nearly three seconds off the norm in just three years. petra schneider swam in another realm in the 400m individual medley, his 1982 world record having stood for 15 years, until a Chinese athlete suspected of doping brought it down. Meanwhile, Christine Otto won six gold medals at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

The GDR treated its athletes like lab rats, teenage girls forced to take drugs no questions asked. If that meant faster times and bigger medal hauls, that scenario was all that mattered. If that meant future physical problems, such as repeated miscarriages and cancer diagnoses, reacting too badly was the dominant theme. The doping program was so specific that officials knew when an athlete was at risk of testing positive and removed the individual from competition in advance, often citing illness as the reason for withdrawal.

Babashoff, one of the greatest female swimmers in history, is the most notorious target of the GDR’s doping programme. Not only was Babashoff victimized in the pool, potential gold medals figuratively alchemized into silver and bronze by steroid-fueled opponents, but she was reviled in the media as a sore loser. Babashoff was – and still is – a leading voice on drug use in the GDR, unafraid as an athlete to claim that his East German enemies had been stimulated by illicit means. For her bravery and willingness to speak out, Babashoff was given the nickname “Surly Shirley”.


The 400IM podium from left to right: Sharron Davies, Petra Schneider and Agnieska Czopek – Photo courtesy: Sharron Davies

Babashoff was denied gold medals behind the East Germans in several events at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. So was the Dutch star Enith Brigitha. Count Canadians Nancy Garapick and Cheryl Gibson in this group too. And American Wendy Boglioli. At the 1980 Games, Great Britain Sharon Davies should have won a gold medal. Australian Michael Ford should have gained a second. All beaten by the East Germans, the list goes on.

The theft has continued at various editions of the World Championships and European Championships, and the history of the sport has been marred by inaction and the missed opportunity to award medals to deserving parties. Esteemed journalist Craig Lord has written extensively on the subject and was present in the courtroom when those accused of setting up the doping scheme went on trial. His repeated calls over the years for an overhaul of the medals, in light of the IOC’s Thorpe decision, are again timely.

Over the years, several East German athletes have fully admitted their forced participation in the doping program and the impact it had on their performance. Others said it could have been possible, with other athletes denying the impact. Anyway, the documentation exists and the legal process has brought the operation to light again.

Swimming World has long advocated for the International Olympic Committee to take action and provide those who have had their Olympic glory stolen from them the rewards they deserve. And with the IOC taking the step to properly recognize Thorpe for his accomplishments, a pathway has been created to correct past doping-related mistakes.

Computers have a delete key. Pencils have an eraser. Our voices have the ability to say “I’m sorry” or “you’ve been cheated on” or “you deserved better”. There is nothing wrong with admitting a mistake or correcting an injustice. On the contrary, stepping back and acknowledging an irregularity can be applauded. It demonstrates a willingness to get it right, no matter how long it takes. The main thing is to get the right result. As the cliché goes, better late than never.

Jim Thorpe died nearly 30 years before his Olympic titles were restored to co-champion status. He’s been gone nearly 70 years now, the time he was re-established as the only gold medalist in his Olympics events more than a century ago. At least those who took up his fight, especially the group known as Bright Path Strong, can celebrate.

“We welcome the fact that, thanks to the great commitment of Bright Path Strong, a solution could be found,” said the IOC President. Thomas Bach said. “This is an exceptional and unique situation, which has been resolved by an extraordinary gesture of fair play on the part of the National Olympic Committees concerned.”

Now the IOC can offer another solution and repair history for other athletes – most of whom are alive and would have the chance to see their training and sporting efforts honored as they should have been in the pool.

The International Olympic Committee opened the door. Invite these athletes and correct their injustices.

That’s what you should do.

All comments are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine or its staff.

Source link


About Author

Comments are closed.