Will The Last Gold Be A Beginning?

Courtesy of Brent Rutemiller of Swimming World Magazine and Craig Lord of SwimVortex.

Brent Rutemiller of Swimming World Magazine and Craig Lord of SwimVortex have published a petition that addresses the Olympic swimming doping program.

The Federation Internationale de Natation: An Open Letter Asking FINA To Recognize All Victims During The DDR Olympic Reign is posted here.

“Our goal is to reach 1,500 signatures on the petition [above]; we need more support. The petition is addressed to FINA‘s top decision-makers:

Dear FINA Board Members:

In December of 2013, Swimming World Magazine made the decision to strip its World and European Swimmer of the Year titles awarded to any East German (DDR) female swimmer dating back to 1973. The magazine is revisiting how it might reallocate those awards.

The decision to strip those titles generated many comments and discussions within the swimming community worldwide. Almost everyone agreed that the systematic doping of athletes by the East German government affected the Olympics medal standings.

Swimming World acknowledged that the DDR women were just as much victims as were the swimmers who were cheated out of winning medals and their place in history. In an article running parallel to Swimming World’s campaign, SwimVortex.com noted the difference between perpetrators of crime and victims of a crime who won medals as a result of the system they were a part of. The fact that there were victims on both sides of the podium goes to the core of the IOC’s dilemma in rectifying history.

On behalf of the swimming community worldwide, we are calling on FINA to recognize all victims during this dark period in Olympic history and to lobby the International Olympic Committee to take similar action.

When Nelson Mandela passed away of late, his story reminded us all of the need to acknowledge the past and then leave it in the past so that reconciliation and healing can take place and a new beginning made. Without acknowledgement, swimming cannot move on.

We therefore ask the following:

1. That FINA acknowledge that the aquatic records were tainted during the DDR era.
2. That FINA acknowledge that there were victims on both sides of the podium.
3. That FINA place an asterisk next to all DDR era swimmers, explaining that they were unknowingly doped.
4. That FINA acknowledge a second tier of new medal standings (consisting of those not recognized) alongside the existing standings of DDR victims.
5. That FINA not ask for DDR swimmers to return their medals.
6. That FINA award duplicate medals to those athletes who have a new standing.
7. That FINA remove from its list of Pin winners all GDR officials, including the convicted Dr Lothar Kipke, a former Medical Commission delegate who was found guilty of harm to minors in the German doping trials of the late 1990s.

The 5th and 6th requests to FINA could be the most impactful for all parties and victims. We cannot think of anything more powerful, emotional and meaningful than FINA staging a medal ceremony during the 2016 World Championships. A ceremony of this nature speaks to all that is good about forgiveness, sportsmanship and above all the spirit of humanity. It is in that ideal that we also ask the following:

8. That FINA stage an event where those who are affected by the reordering of the medals meet with the DDR women in a spirit of sportsmanship, consolation, and forgiveness.

Respectfully Signed,

Brent T. Rutemiller, Publisher, Swimming World Magazine
Craig Lord, Publisher, SwimVortex

A trailer for The Last Gold is shown above. The USA Swimming-produced documentary spotlights the 1976 women’s U.S. Olympic Swim Team and the East German doping scandal. The Last Gold details the efforts of a quartet of American women competing against the systematically-doped East German team. After an entire competition of disappointing results, winning no races and facing critical media that heaped on additional pressure, the U.S. women rallied together to do as a team what they could not do individually; win gold.

The East German team of Kornelia Ender, Petra Thumer, Andrea Pollack and Claudia Hempel was heavily favored to win the 4x100m freestyle relay at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. Prior to the relay, American sportscaster Donna de Varona picked East Germany to win the event, but Kim Peyton, Wendy Boglioli, Jill Sterkel and Shirley Babashoff pulled off a great upset as Babashoff outlegged Hempel down the stretch to win the gold medal and shatter the world record by 4 seconds.

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Steven Munatones