ATHENS OLYMPICS: Swimming ColdWar comes to an end - for good

19th August 2004, Comments 0 comments

20 August 2004 , ATHENS - The Cold War in swimming ended this week when East Germany was eliminated from the world record lists for good. Natalie Coughlin, Carly Piper, Dana Vollmer and Kaitlin Sandeno of the US bettered the longest-standing world record in women's swimming, in the 4x200 metres freestyle relay to 7:53.42 minutes. The former mark of 7:55.47 was set by East Germans Manuela Stellmach, Astrid Strauss, Anke Moehring and Heike Friedrich on the day 17 years ago, on August 18, 1987, at the Europea

20 August 2004

ATHENS - The Cold War in swimming ended this week when East Germany was eliminated from the world record lists for good.

Natalie Coughlin, Carly Piper, Dana Vollmer and Kaitlin Sandeno of the US bettered the longest-standing world record in women's swimming, in the 4x200 metres freestyle relay to 7:53.42 minutes.

The former mark of 7:55.47 was set by East Germans Manuela Stellmach, Astrid Strauss, Anke Moehring and Heike Friedrich on the day 17 years ago, on August 18, 1987, at the European championships in Strasbourg.

The US team tried to grasp the magnitude of the achievement.

"I think that Carly and I were four years old at the time and Dana wasn't even born yet," said Sandeno.

"It was the longest standing record. That in itself is a feat, whether it is tainted or not," she added.

The record came in the dusk of the Communist State's existence, one year before East Germany competed in their last Olympics to win an astonishing 102 medals (37 gold, 35 silver, 30 bronze).

Among them were 10 golds in women's swimming from Kornelia Ender and company in 15 events.

East Germany's swimming took a giant leap from zero golds 1972 - when the U.S. was still in full control - to an astonishing 11 golds in 13 swim events just four years later in Montreal.

It was only revealed after German reunification that East Germany had set up a state-run doping programme 1968-1989, aiming to make the most of the Olympics as a giant political propaganda show in the Cold War.

The favourite drug was the steroid oral-turinabol, known also among those involved as "little blue pills".

By 1976 the doping programme was so sophisticated that not even the introduction of drug tests for steroids at the Montreal Games stopped the giant leap of the East German women's swim team, the favourite guinea pigs of the doctors and scientists.

Eight of the 11 pool golds in 1976 came with a world record. But the opposition could only speculate about the athletes' deep voices and muscular bodies as all doping tests were negative.

The programme culminated 1988 in Seoul when Kristin Otto won an unprecedented six gold medals.

Otto, who works for Germany's ZDF TV in Athens, insists that she never knowingly took in forbidden substances and has threatened to take anyone to court who disagrees.

But the former swim team doctor Lothar Kipke was convicted in 2000 to have administered forbidden substances on 58 mostly teenaged athletes.

The German government has agreed to pay compensation to doping victims, many of them suffering major health problems.

David Wallechinsky summed up the tragedy that affected both sides in his book 'The complete book of the Olympics:'

"Swimmers and other athletes who competed against, and were beaten by, the chemically augmented East Germans, were cheated out of medals they should have earned.

"However, many of the East Germany athletes were victims as well because they will never know if they could have won medals without drugs," Wallenchinsky said.

Once the magnitude of the systematic cheating programme was revealed after reunification, American and Australian athletes tried to convince the IOC to disqualify the East Germans.

But that effort was in vain, just like attempts to revise the world record lists of the ruling FINA.

The latter, though, was taken care of by other swimmers, with the American relay quartet completing the job on Wednesday night.

"There are rumours that say it was clean. It was an amazing time and it just shows how strong we are and how much depth we have," said Vollmer.

DPA

Subject: German news
 

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