A DIRTY SYSTEM
The German magazine Stern reported recently that it had obtained proof of anabolic steroid use by many of East Germany's most celebrated athletes. The magazine, which based its story on documents it purchased from Dr. Manfred H‚Äö√†√∂‚Äö√†√áppner, who was deputy director of East Germany's Sports Medical Service, said that the use of performance-enhancing substances had been encouraged and facilitated by coaches, sports-federation administrators and high-level government officials.
The documents, which Stern claims to have, allegedly detail the doping regimens of hundreds of athletes and indicate that East German officials eschewed "the-more-the-better" approach to drugs. "[The use of] 'supporting means' [as drugs were euphemistically called] was painstakingly honed and tinkered with," the story said. "Scientific teams...analyzed all aspects of the effects of anabolic steroids."
Strict limits on the quantity of each drug an athlete could use in a year were recommended: Men were not to take more than 1,500 milligrams per year of Oral-Turinabol (OT), women not more than 1,000 milligrams. Stern further said that other drugs, such as Vasopressin (which may facilitate an athlete's recovery from training) and Piracetam (which may increase endurance and enhance concentration), were tried on rats and then on athletes.
According to Stern, the documents indicate that:
•During 1981, when she was 16, long jumper Heike Drechsler took 650 milligrams of OT. Her dosage was increased to 705 milligrams in '82 and 835 in '83. Drechsler, who had jumped 21'9½" in '80, improved to 23'5¼" by '83, when she became the youngest winner at the inaugural World Championships.
•While training in Italy in the spring of 1989, Ulf Timmermann, the Olympic shot put champion, started by taking 10 milligrams of OT per day. He increased his dosage to 15 milligrams and finally to 20 by the end of his stay.
•Ten days before her first event at the 1989 European swimming championships, Kristin Otto, who had won six gold medals at the Seoul Olympics, went for a routine precompetition drug test in East Germany. It revealed her testosterone to be three times the acceptable level. Officials, calculating that her testosterone would decrease to an acceptable level by the time of competition, allowed her to go to the championships, where she won the 100-meter backstroke and passed her drug test.
Other East German athletes whose supposed use of supporting means is laid out in detail in the magazine are Torsten Voss and Christian Schenk, the world and Olympic decathlon champions, respectively; and Olympic discus champion Jürgen Schult. All the athletes named in the story denied using steroids, but a lesser-known East German athlete, swimmer Raik Hannemann, wrote in the newspaper Berliner Kurier am Abend last week, "We were all swallowing. I experimented with several substances because I was eager to receive privileges such as an apartment, admission to a university and a car."
After publication of Stern's story, the sports federation of the recently united Germany held an emergency meeting and announced creation of an independent commission to investigate the charges. Whatever its findings, East Germans were certainly not alone in using steroids. Last month Neue Kronen Zeitung, a newspaper in Vienna, reported that 24 Austrian athletes, most of them bodybuilders, had tested positive for steroids in the past year. A sports official in the U.S.S.R. disclosed last week that 49 Soviet athletes in a variety of sports had tested positive for banned substances this year. And, of course, many others have also tested positive, including Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson and, more recently, two U.S. world-record holders, shot-putter Randy Barnes and 400-meter runner Butch Reynolds.
The final word on the matter comes from Johnson's former coach, Charlie Francis. "I don't call it cheating," Francis said. "My definition of cheating is doing something nobody else is doing."
THE BETS ARE OFF
Sports betting pools are a more or less accepted part of office life these days. However, one New York City enterprise recently circulated a memo reminding employees that "sports betting reflects poor judgment on the part of the participants and can only inflict criticism of our organization." The organization? The New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation.
TOO HOT, TOO LATE
What was The Athletic Congress thinking when it chose New Orleans to host the 1992 Olympic track and field trials? Obviously not about distance runners who will have to run multiple rounds of the 3,000 meters, 5,000, 10,000 or steeplechase in the space of four days. The trials are to be held in late June, when the daytime high temperature in New Orleans averages 90° and the humidity is oppressive; temperatures in the evenings, when races are likely to be held, are generally in the 80s.
The heat in New Orleans could be even worse than it was in Indianapolis, where the 1988 trials were held under sometimes miserable conditions. "There is no question this is dangerous," says Bob Sevene, the coach of several top U.S. runners. "You remember [10,000-meter runner] Jay Marden being taken from the track in Indy. [Not to mention PattiSue Plumer and Sabrina Dornhoefer, who finished third and fourth, respectively, in the women's 3,000 and then had to be wheeled from the track on gurneys.] I don't know why we don't send the distance runners to Eugene [Ore.]."
That's not a bad idea. Or, if not to Eugene (which hosted the trials in 1972, '76 and '80), how about sending the runners to Minneapolis or Seattle or some place where the conditions are less likely to be life-threatening? While the tradition of holding the trials for all track and field events at one site makes for a grander occasion, the well-being of the athletes should take precedence.
And while we're at it, TAC should consider moving the distance races to an earlier month, perhaps April. That would give athletes in those events time to recover from the trials and build up again for the Olympics, which begin in late July in Barcelona. The 1988 trials were held two months before the Games—twice the span that TAC is allowing for '92—yet in Seoul, none of the U.S. distance runners finished better than fifth. Doesn't it make sense to give them a fighting chance in Barcelona?
BOWL AND CHAIN
Amanda Guild, a 30-year-old Saginaw, Mich., housewife, has a 131 bowling average, so you can imagine her excitement when, during league play at the local Americana Lanes on Oct. 29, she rolled a 587 (160-203-224) series. The Saginaw News named Guild its Bowler of the Week, which meant she got her smiling photo in the paper's sports section.
It's amazing what the thrill of getting named Bowler of the Week will do to a person's memory. Guild seems to have forgotten completely that she had been indicted seven months earlier by a grand jury in Jackson, Tenn., on charges including possession with intent to distribute marijuana and cocaine, money laundering, obstruction of justice and perjury. Guild fled Jackson, eventually returning to Saginaw, where, U.S. marshals admit, she might well have continued to elude them had she not had the night of her bowling life.
But Guild's photo was spotted by an IRS agent, and on Nov. 25, a marshal, an IRS agent and a policeman swooped down on Americana Lanes. They arrived just as Guild was stepping up to bowl the fourth frame in another league match. "We probably could have arrested her at home," said deputy marshal Steve Kurkowski, "but since she was the Bowler of the Week, what could be more appropriate?"
UP FROM THE DEPTHS
In the December issue of Underwater Naturalist, biologists Wendelin Giebel, James Bergquist and David Rudman list the stomach contents of a 150-pound Atlantic bluefin tuna hooked 80 miles off the New Jersey coast. They included: an elastic ponytail holder, two cocaine inhalation straws, monofilament fishing line, fragments of drinking straws, pieces of balloons, Ziploc bag fragments, pen and marker pieces and bands used to bind newspaper for delivery. The researchers conclude, "The long evolutionary process which endowed the Atlantic bluefin tuna with its speed, stamina, power and predatory skill no longer ensures its continued fitness in an ocean littered with the smallest of our persistent plastic debris."
A FIRST STEP
Seven days after golfer Tom Watson resigned from the Kansas City Country Club to protest the blackballing of prospective member Henry Bloch, who is Jewish (POINT AFTER, Dec. 10), the club's board met in emergency session and invited Bloch to join. Bloch said that he would, and he may already be out on the course, making divots, by the time you read this.
Watson's widely publicized gesture was admirable, and so was the club's reconsideration of Bloch's application. Now, to show that the action wasn't just tokenism, the club need only start admitting other Jews, as well as blacks, Hispanics and Asian-Americans.
THEY SAID IT
•Dick Jackman, Iowa alumnus, allowing as how the Hawkeyes had exceeded expectations by earning a Rose Bowl berth: "We just wanted to win enough to be investigated."
•Mark Howe, Philadelphia Flyer defenseman, describing the pain in his legs caused by lower back problems: "It felt like two midgets were inside my calves using flame throwers."