Frank Shorter was all legs and lungs in 1972 when he won the
Olympic marathon in Munich and launched a U.S. running
revolution. His fondest wish now, at 51, is to pump up. "I'm
conducting my own anecdotal experiment," he says. "Research
shows that if you don't work to reverse it, you lose three
pounds of muscle mass a decade. Weight training is something you
can get better at with age. I like to do things I can improve at."
This is an article from the Oct. 25, 1999 issue
That explanation, brimming as it is with curiosity and insight,
is classic Shorter. At Yale in the late 1960s he was a
Renaissance man: In addition to running track, he was a psych
major who sang in a close-harmony group called The Bachelors.
Not until his senior year did Shorter get serious about running.
In '70, a year after graduating, he won the first of four
straight national cross-country championships, and his 2:10:30
in '72 for the marathon and 27:45.91 for the 10,000 meters in
'75 are among the best U.S. performances of all time.
Shorter earned a law degree but has supported himself by
promoting his sportswear company and by doing television
commentary and lectures. A force behind the advent of open
payment of track and field athletes, in 1975 he testified before
President Ford's Commission on Olympic Sports about the absurd
system of under-the-table money given by meet and race promoters
to "amateur" athletes, including himself. Shorter's admissions
could have cost him his amateur status; instead they propelled
his sport into greater honesty and professionalism.
Shorter is once more nudging the Olympic movement toward
realizing its lofty ideals. He has been serving as an adviser to
both Gen. Barry McCaffrey and Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.) in
their investigations on the use of performance-enhancing drugs
in the Olympics. This week Shorter is scheduled to testify
before McCain's subcommittee on the Olympics. Pinning his hopes
on the creation of an "absolutely independent drug-testing
agency," Shorter proposes establishing a lifelong Damoclean
deterrent: "Take blood from the first five finishers, preserve
it in perpetuity, and test it with any new technology that comes
That modest proposal would almost certainly have brought
Shorter, who says he never used performance-enhancing drugs, a
second Olympic gold medal since Stasi files discovered after the
fall of the Berlin Wall make it clear that 1976 gold medalist
Waldemar Cierpinski had taken steroids before he beat Shorter in
Montreal. Alas, the IOC recently instituted a three-year statute
of limitations on drug-related disqualifications, so Shorter,
who in all fairness should have joined Abebe Bikila as a double
gold medalist in the Olympic marathon, must be satisfied with
again changing the system.
realizing its lofty ideals.