The Darkest Chapter Drew To A Close 25 Years Ago

As part of our series Seoul – 25 Years On, we remind ourselves of the last Olympic stand of the GDR and its Sporting Crime of the Century at the Games that gave us six golds for Kristin Otto in the pool as world sport was rocked by Ben Johnson and his inflated sprint on the track on a diet of doping

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As part of our series Seoul – 25 Years On, we remind ourselves of the last Olympic stand of the GDR and its Sporting Crime of the Century at the Games that gave us six golds for Kristin Otto in the pool as world sport was rocked by Ben Johnson and his inflated sprint on the track on a diet of doping



Thanks for that article! In hindsight I am really glad I never actually made the cut to get in any swimming program back in the GDR when I was a kid for precisely that reason. Would they have been just as great without the doping? Unfortunately, we will never know.
PS: Jena is actually situated in Thuringia 🙂

Craig Lord

Thanks Isabel. Thuringia it is (Saxony belonged to Kreischa but I merged two sentences and crossed the border inadvertently 🙂 – ) I think they would have had medallists in many events through the years from the talent ID program and the sports science they were developing and using … the dominance, the inevitability, the time warp, was down to doping, as we know. In all of it I feel that too much emphasis has been placed on the athlete and not enough on the officials, doctors and coaches … that was the case even when some of those folk stood trial and got paltry punishment for their role in a sorry episode of human history that transcended sport and spoke to the themes of corruption, abuse of power, abuse, ego of the worst kind – and reflected some of the messages of Orwell in Animal Farm and 1984.


Otto might not be so dominant.. but I think maybe even without the Doping she would probably still be the star swimmer of her age.. maybe on the same level of Gross .. (who unless otherwise proven.. was never related to any doping program)

Craig Lord

Debatable, of course, in an era with Janet Evans, Mary T etc, esp when you take relays and the almost unbeatable GDR quartets out of the equation.

Lane Four

If the 4X2 had been on the Seoul program as it was in the 1986 World Championships AND Otto had been permitted to swim the 200 I.M., in which she was defending world champion, then in all likelihood we would have seen our first 8X time gold medalist at an Olympic Games.

Secondly, if anyone can find a copy of Faust’s Gold, I highly urge you to get it and read it. FASCINATING reading.

Thirdly, search the internet for interviews from former DDR swimmers to hear their take on what happened. The best is of Ulrike Tauber, the 1976 400 I.M. Olympic champion. She is put on the spot by the interviewer asking if she felt her gold medal and world records were legitimate. Oddly, as a medical doctor, Ulrike felt that the steroids did not help her and that her successes and world records were from hard work and nothing more.

Craig, I loved this article! Please, more more more!!!!!!

Bill Bell

The greatest robbery of the 20th century wasn’t Surly Shirley losing all dem races to the juiced @ Montreal.

Two even GREATER injustices were Berkoff losing 100 back @ Seoul AND Biondi loosing to Nesty in the 100 fly … outrageous

There ought to be or have been a law,

Uncle Sam’s swimmers DON’T lose …

And in Nesty’s case they probably didn’t even have a swimming pool in his native Surinam …Oh he trained at Bolles in Jacksonville and w/Randy Reese at the University of Florida (where he is now asst, head coach).

Craig Lord

Calm down Bill … I edited a few words out to avoid someone calling by to take you out … very amusing but we’re a wholesome, clean, family website Mr Bell 🙂

Bill Bell

Quite right. Biondi and Berkoff just got beaten by faster guys those particular days.

Just like four years later in Barcelona Rouse was ” unlucky” to lose to Tewksbury but again the best man prevailed — in that particular race on that particular day.

Nesty’s win is to my way of thinking most impressive because Suranim is such a small and relatively underdeveloped nation. of course it didn’t hurt that he was. Product of the Bolles School and the University of Florida aquatic powerhouses.

Still a win is a win is a win and the history books don’t ask “why ” — except in the case of the Flying Frauleins from you know where.

As for T. Yes she was robbed @ Guayaquil but I rather imagine her trees medales de oro at Lo Angeles help assuage that disappointment.

And as for Madame Breaststroket (Ruta M.) perhaps her success will inspire Sophie Taylor and other aspiring Brits to greater heights than they ever imaginef.

After all she puts on her suit just like Ruta – one leg at a time.

But really now, in all seriousness: it is ROBBERY when Uncle Sam’s ads and lassies don’t occupy the top step of the podium

In fact it’s downright UNAMERICAN!

Eric Lahmy

I wrote in 1973, during the world championships of Belgrade, in the columns of L’Equipe about the doping system of DDR. My informations came from Mr Guy Boissière, the coach of Rouen, Michel Rousseau and Stephan Caron. In Europe, we knew many things about the doping system of this country. When Mr Waitchekowsky became the boss of USSR swimming, he told me a lot of good things about the American swimming. The US coaches, Mr Waitchekowsky said, opened the doors of their swimming pools, and showed us everything. They showed us they are decent persons in this sport. I asked him about the East Germans and he told me bluntly: “all they showed us is how to dope the people.” This was long before the disclosure of this shamely system.
In 1978, the East Germans had tough time with their doping system. Many swimmers were removed from the team because they they were positive at the tests made by their team, and a very powerful american team led by Tracy Caulkins and Joan Pennington trounced them. But it was only a sunny day in a very dark journey. These criminals endangered the sport. Otto allways said she was not doped. It has been said also that Kornelia Ender was so gifted that they did not doped her. Who knows? But these girls were victims of the “system” and some of them were darlings, they did not know that they were guinea pigs. They did not deserve this ugly treatment who impaired their lives. Now, some of them were less likable, like this disreputable, arrogant Petra Thuemer.
Well, happy to know that Bill Bell is allways alive and kicking and learning impaired.
Eric Lahmy

Craig Lord

Hello Eric. Long-time, no see. We miss you 🙂 Thanks for your insight and recollection as one who livd through it. Much appreciated. Kind regards, Craig

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