FINA Ears Still Deaf To Reconciliation Call Over Sporting Crime Of The 20th Century

GDR, state plan 14:25: abuse victims on both sides - yet a call for reconciliation has fallen on deaf ears
GDR, state plan 14:25: abuse victims on both sides - yet a call for reconciliation has fallen on deaf ears

Today, we join Swimming World in highlighting yet another issue that FINA, the international swimming federation, and its member national federations, including USA Swimming, have failed to deal with for 40 long years. The anniversary of Montreal 1976 looms and the first Olympic charge of a team of young GDR athletes abused by their guardians and linked by dripped to State Plan 14:25 without their knowledge took almost all women’s events by storm. More than 40 years on, and two years beyond a request from SwimVortex and Swimming World, backed by unanimous vote of the FINA Press Commission to consider a reconciliation ceremony that would help set to rest the ghosts of a woeful past, FINA is yet to respond (nor has it even acknowledged the request)

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Comments

gheko

Craig, is it true that steroids were banned in 1975?

Craig Lord

Yes, Gheko, that’s correct – 1975 is when they made the official banned substances list. It was 1968 when the first banned substances list was in use at an Olympic Games. Anabolic steroids 1968-72 were suspected to be playing a part but while research into detection was going on, the argument was that they could not add something to the list without the possibility of being able to detect it. The 1973 world swim championships, among other events, highlighted ‘here comes a problem’ … the rest we know.

gheko

Yes that’s true, but a lot of great performers who were clean from 68 onwards,( I believe drugs were rife since 1948) could be tarnished because they were not tested for steroids, It seems to me the East Germans are being made the scapegoat here, as if they are the only ones doping!

Craig Lord

Not the kids but the system, gheko, is something else… when you secretly dope teenagers (many of whom develop serious illness, suffer multiple miscarriages, some giving birth to disabled children later in life) – up to 10,000 athletes is the estimate based on stasi files, then you’re not a scapegoat, you’re a criminal entity. The secret was manyfold: outside world, inside world and the hiding of internal advice from medical and scientific experts who told the regime ‘this will do harm to these girls in the following ways….” Guess what: it did. There’s a difference between the folk who decide for themselves to cheat and keep it from others, including their own national program etc and the folk who doped generations of people, in swimming often aged 13 to 15 when they were stuffed full of steroids on a fairly regular basis. I’ll be interested to see Last Gold. It will doubtless be very American (to be expected, that its focus) but I hope it isn’t Hollywood and I hope it finds space for the underlying issues, including asking such questions as why USA Swimming has been unable to move FINA one mm in the direction of dealing with a woeful past.

gheko

I know what you are saying is true Craig, but how could 4 clean american women beat 4 East Germans who were doped, has got me baffled, so drugs don’t improve performance by that much?

Felix Sanchez

gheko, it depends what you consider “that much”. Say for instance that a chemical program allows an athlete to train harder, recover much more quickly, and build more muscle, leads to them swimming 5% quicker than they otherwise would have. That may be enough to turn a solid international competitor into a champion, but doesn’t necessarily make them unbeatable.

Ger

gheko, they just raised their game, were inspired on the day. It happens sometimes in any sport. The word, “giantkillers,” is often used to describe the underdog who defeats the odds on favourite. It’s a phenomenon we can be guaranteed will repeat itself.

gheko

Rubbish the Americans [in my opinion but I have no evidence, ED) had help. [gheko, comments altered to reflect the fact that you don’t know – you believe; please word your thoughts in that vein on this subject – legally important, or I will have to remove the comments. Thanks].

Craig Lord

gheko, we have no idea whether some from others countries were also doped at the time. We do know that the likes of Babashoff looked nothing like those bulked on steroids; we do know she was an extraordinary, hard-working talent; we do know she is highly likely to have been a clean swimmer denied. The history of sport is full of clean athletes who beat doped athletes. That continues to be the case to this day. The examples of obviously doped athletes (caught and uncaught) who raced well beyond their natural capacity to make podiums does not alter the fact that there are clean athletes who could swim just as fast, though greater natural aptitude and ability and smart work.

Craig Lord

Indeed, Felix.

gheko

Rubbish mate, how can 4 clean athletes beat 4 doped? steroids cannot have had any effect? so steroids make no difference? what is all the fuss about??

Ger

So you’re saying gheko, that the americans, sometime after the 100m freestyle final, managed to find a supplier of an undetectable PED that would act immediately? They had 2 days in which to act. All four swimmers, and likely coaches, would need to be involved. Or how do you see it working?
In Kazan, Ryan Murphy swam 52.18 for the 100m backstroke. In the ensuing days he couldn’t get anywhere near it; about a second off. I would say that is down to mindset; being switched on and switched off.
What could the U.S. quartet have taken that would act so quickly?

aswimfan

In 1994 Rome, Sam Riley and Franziska van Almsick beat the doped to the eye balls Chinese. It’s possible.
In 1996 Atlanta both Susie O’Neil and Petria Thomas beat Michelle Smith de Bruijn.

Craig Lord

Gheko, that’s nonsense. GDR often focussed on two max in each event. They did not have 4 Enders (huge takent at 13 plus State plan 14:25 after that). Of course the steroids made a difference, as witnessed by dominance in most events at most champs 1973 to 1989 (European level even more stark). They did not find a flyer to match Mary T at her best – that does not mean Mary T was on steroids, as well you know if you know swimming.

Craig Lord

Indeed, aswimfan – and many more examples. Brute force does not always win. Gheko calls it wrong. The matter is far more complex than the simple ‘on steroids, must win’.

gheko

Very complex but very unlikely, so are you saying steroids dont help you win Craig?

gheko

This is a prime example of drugs not winning, so how much do steroids really help then?

Craig Lord

No, I’m not saying that, gheko, clearly they have and do. What I am saying speaks to this kind of scenario: 2 swimmers, both clean, one going 4:40 one going 4:58 on a regular basis at various competitions, one a 4:45 and better swimmer from 15 years of age, displaying excellent skills etc etc, and clearly built to swim; the other struggling with 4:58 to 5:10 range for several years, a good swimmer but nothing that is going to challenge for big medals. Then, just for the sake of argument, we give androgenic substances to the slower swimmer – and after a year, we see a 4:45. Wow, good progress but no impact as yet. Then we see a sub-4:40 several months later, for a big title in world-class global waters, the silver to the talent we spoke of, also just inside 4:40. That golden sub-4:40 is not unbeatable; the champion is a cheat. Clean swimming is a part of the scenario but in this case is the loser (as if often but not always the case). The above scenario has played out in various events and at various times and on varying spectrums many times over the past 40 years, no question in my mind whatsoever.

Craig Lord

gheko, in general: it is not about how much they help; it is about how much they help in particular situations with particular swimmers/athletes, combined with workload. For example, the GDR girls worked like hell, often covering 100k a week and doing stuff like 20km cross country ski runs as part of their training. And they didn’t break down, where others would have broken down. Where you see people able to put in unusual and extraordinary race and training regimes without any hint of breakdown or ease-back, there is often a problem in the background. The GDR steroids were part of package of building the beast – some of that was added to the likes of a super-talented Kornelia Ender, some of it played out in swimmers that were built like dump trucks, their technique and build suited to shifting rocks not moving through water at ease, brute force a part of the result, the certainty of their winning far less than in the case of the likes of Ender, Thumer and others that came with natural talent honed with excellent technical skills. Look at the Chinese girls of 1994-98 – a few were built to swim, many were not, brute force and a lack of anything resembling excellent skills sometimes getting the swimmer to the top of the podium, sometimes not, silver and bronze medals won through cheating, places in finals achieved through cheating, team selections to O Games etc, just as much as part of the history of doping as the gold medals and world records often in focus.

gheko

Kornelia Ender was only 13 in Munich and won a couple of silvers , so she was already very talented, Shirley Babashoff beat her in the 200m in 1975 world titles, so guess they were beatable, Michelle Ford beat them in Moscow also, what i am saying is yes they were doped but that was not the only reason they won, they also worked hard!

Craig Lord

Gheko, sure – but the point is about how they were able to work as hard as they did with no breakdown, no having to take the foot off the pedal. That was very much part of the picture – and remains a part of the picture of doping in swimming to this day.

gheko

You would assume the only real reason that medals can not be re rewarded would be if only the medal winners were drug tested in these 76 games, of cause they all passed the tests because they went off the drugs early enough to not test positive, but then again if fourth and fifth places were not drug tested how can they award them medals?

Craig Lord

That isn’t the proposal put to FINA by us and Swimming World, of course, Gheko, nor is this just about 1976 (were it so easy). The GDR is quantifiable. The evidence is there: in court papers, in convictions, in Stasi papers galore that show the precise names and dosages of steroids given. The proposal is reconciliation and acknowledgement … for victims on both sides – and that doesn’t start with the mad theory that because the GDR cheated everyone else in the race must have done, too. That simply was not the case (mind the gap, it is glaringly obvious). Take a look at German nationals and the national records still in place in several events 2, 3 and more decades on. The impact of State Plan 14:25 was immense, no question whatsoever. Nothing like it in world sport before or since. Yes, if acknowledgment medals were to be handed out, there would be some promoted who may well have been doped, too. That will not be the case for the majority. Think of other realms in which reconciliation exercises were extremely difficult and many were the arguments, emotional in the mix, against doing it – but the benefits years down the line are as tangible as they are important to the process of moving on.

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