Irish swimmer Michelle Smith was elated to win
one of her three gold medals in the 1996 Olympics, but a whiskey-spiked
urine sample, among other things, cast a shadow on her success.
(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
10 Drug Scandals CBC
Sports Online | Jan. 19, 2003
We've compiled a list of 10 of the most influential
– and bizarre – drug cases in the past few decades. It's
a long, strange trip indeed, including:
1. E. German athletes
& government sponsored cheating
2. 1983 Pan Am Games: Dawn of drug testing
3. The U.S. Track & Field coverups
4. Canada's shame: Ben Johnson
5. Last to first: Irish swimmer Michelle Smith
6. Fake dynasty: Chinese swim team
7. Tour de France: Whatever it takes
8. Baseball: Home runs in bulk
9. Cross country skiing and doping: a Nordic tradition
10. Nandrolone goes for the Grand Slam
1. E. German athletes
& government sponsored cheating
How does a country of fewer than 17 million
people double its Olympic output from 20 to 40 gold medals in just
four years? Drugs, and plenty of 'em.
The East Germans became a sporting powerhouse in the 1970s and '80s,
rivalling the much larger United States and Soviet Union. Thousands
of East German athletes were given performance-enhancing steroids
in an effort to prove East German superiority over the West. Many
athletes thought they were simply taking vitamins.
The special pills worked. East Germans were a mighty force in amateur
sport, particularly in the pool.
But with the medals and titles came the negative health side effects,
such as liver cancer, organ damage, psychological defects, hormonal
changes and infertility.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, many athletes came forward
to tell how they were given frequent doses of pills and needles of
Kornelia Ender, Barbara Krause and Carola Nitschke were three of those
swimmers exposed to the doping regime.
Ender, who won four gold and four silver medals at the 1972 and 1976
Olympics, revealed she started receiving injections at the age of
Krause, a three-time Olympic gold medallist and eight-time world record
holder, was forced out of the 1976 Olympics because team doctors had
miscalculated her dose of drugs and worried she might test positive
at the Games.
Nitschke was also 13 when doctors started giving her the anabolic
steroid Oral-Turinabol and injections of the male hormone testosterone.
In 1998, she became the first doped athlete to return her medals and
ask that her name be removed from the record books.
A German court later found the late ex-East German sports boss Manfred
Ewald and his medical director, Manfred Hoeppner, culpable for what
it called "systematic and overall doping in (East German) competitive
sports" until the fall of the Berlin Wall.
They were given suspended jail sentences and handed minimal fines.
The German government set up a $2.18 million US fund for any doped
athlete who wished to file a claim to get some of their medical bills
Just 197 athletes filed applications by the March 2003 deadline, far
fewer than expected. Each athlete will get less than $10,000, small
compensation for years of exposure to dangerous doses of drugs.
2. 1983 Pan Am Games:
Dawn of drug testing
The modern age of drug testing essentially
started at the 1983 Pan Am Games in Caracas, Venezuela. A team of
scientists, led by chemist and drug-testing chief Manfred Donike of
Germany, developed a new method for steroid testing in anticipation
of two large international sporting events that year, the Pan Games
and world track and field championships.
What followed paved the way for drug testing for years to come.
Canadian weightlifter Guy Greavette was at the centre of what became
the first international drug scandal in sports. Greavette, along with
teammate Michel Viau, was stripped of his medals and handed a two-year
suspension after testing positive for steroids.
The Pan Am drug testing caught a lot of athletes by surprise. After
Greavette's positive test, a dozen American athletes in various events
suddenly withdrew from the competition and returned to the U.S., and
at least another dozen athletes from other countries also left without
Nineteen athletes in total failed drug tests at the 1983 Pan Ams.
Greavette's weightlifting career never recovered, though he is still
involved in the sport as a volunteer coach and executive director
of B.C. Weightlifting.
In 2001, Greavette told CBC's Sports Journal that he felt he
and some other athletes were made examples of while many athletes
from other countries got off without penalty.
3. The U.S. Track &
It is perhaps the biggest doping cover-up in all of sports.
Dr. Wade Exum's report that 19 American medallists were allowed to
compete at various Olympic Games from 1988 to 2000 despite having
earlier failed drug tests shocked some people in the sporting community
but was no surprise to others.
For years, insiders had speculated that U.S. athletes were not immune to delving into doping to get ahead of the competition.
But how could this be? American athletes often spoke publicly against illegal drug use in sport, cursing the sports regimes of East Germany and China for systemic doping practices.
"There is no commitment to stopping the drug problem," said track and field star Carl Lewis in 2000. "People know the sport is dirty, the sport is so driven by records."
Little did Lewis know he would be named in Exum's report.
The five-time Olympic medallist was among the athletes named in more
than 30,000 pages of documents released by former U.S. Olympic Committee
anti-doping chief to Sports Illustrated and several newspapers
in 2003. More than 100 athletes from several different sports tested
positive for banned substances between 1988 and 2000 but were cleared
by internal appeals processes.
According to Exum's evidence, Lewis was one of three eventual Olympic gold medallists who tested positive for banned stimulants in the months leading up to the 1988 Seoul Games.
Exum made the initial allegations about coverups in 2000, which led
several sporting organizations – among them, the IOC, IAAF and the
World Anti-Doping Agency – to pressure the USOC to re-examine how
they conducted drug testing.
Soon, the USOC turned over drug testing responsibilities to the newly founded U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Don't worry, the USOC assured, this type of cover-up will never happen again.
So far, it hasn't. (Well, aside from track and field's Jerome Young being allowed to compete – and win a gold medal – at the 2000 Sydney Olympics despite testing positive for steroids in 1999.)
These coverups still beg the question: How could a country's own Olympic
federation turn their backs on the oath of fair play and allow drug
cheats to compete for a decade's worth of Olympic Games?
Ben Johnson would like to know.
Lewis was awarded the gold medal in the 100-metres after Johnson was disqualified for using steroids.
The Canadian sprinter told the Toronto Star that he felt somewhat vindicated by Exum's report.
"It was (for years) like I was the only cheat," he told the newspaper. "I knew time would take care of the truth."
4. Canada's shame: Ben Johnson
Hero to goat.
Johnson captured the imagination of Canadians on Sept. 27, 1988, when
he won the 100-metre sprint title in a world-record time of 9.79 seconds
at the Seoul Olympics. To make the victory even sweeter, Johnson captured
the gold medal by handily defeating American rival Carl Lewis.
The euphoria of Johnson's win didn't last, however, when it was found
the Canadian tested positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol.
Johnson's claim that the positive test stemmed from a spiked herbal
drink the night before the race was unfounded (not that his positive
test was any surprise, considering his inflated deltoid muscles and
jaundiced eyes, but how many Canadians wanted to believe that?).
Johnson was subsequently stripped of his gold medal and world record
and banned from competition for two years. The disgrace of the event
was a black eye on Canadian amateur sport and pushed the drugs-in-sport
issue to the forefront like never before.
Nearly 15 years later, it was discovered that several American track
athletes tested positive for drugs before those same Seoul Games.
Allegedly among them was Lewis, who was awarded the gold medal after
It appears that Johnson became the goat for all.
5. Last to first: Irish
swimmer Michelle Smith
Irish eyes were smiling during the 1996 Atlanta
Olympic Games. Michelle Smith was the pride of Ireland after winning
three gold and one bronze medal in the pool.
No one else was smiling. Her rise to the top of the swimming world
was extremely suspicious.
In two previous Olympic Games, Smith's best result was 17th in the
In 1993, she was ranked 90th in the world in the 400 individual medley,
but after training with husband Erik de Bruin – a former Dutch
discus thrower who was under a four-year suspension for failing a
drug test she vaulted into 17th in the world by the next year.
By Atlanta, the 26-year-old Smith had won several European titles
and trimmed a whopping 17 seconds off two personal bests.
After her Olympic success, it was discovered that FINA, swimming's
international federation, had repeatedly expressed concern that Smith
was unavailable for out-of-competition drug tests from 1995 onward.
Finally, in 1998, two drug testers showed up at Smith and de Bruin's
Smith gave them a sample, but because she was wearing a bulky sweater,
the tester couldn't see what she was doing. The sample was sealed
and sent to a Barcelona lab for examination. The results were shocking.
The sample contained a level of alcohol that would be fatal if consumed
by a human.
FINA concluded that the sample had been manipulated, that whiskey
had been added as a masking agent and they suspended Smith for four
Those athletes who finished behind Smith in 1996 including
Canadians Marianne Limpert (silver) and Joanne Malar (fourth) in the
200IM can only wonder what might have been.
6. Chinese swim team
growth hormones. All banned substances. All used by various members
of the Chinese national swim team in the last 15 years.
China did not register among the world's swimming powers until the
1990s, and when they did, they did with a bang.
The country won four swimming gold medals at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics
and then took 12 of 16 women's titles at the 1994 world championships.
The team's sudden success fuelled suspicion of drug use, and by the
next big competition, those hunches proved true.
Eleven athletes tested positive for dihydrotestosterone at the 1994
Asian Games. The big bust decimated the swim squad for the 1996 Olympics
(they won just one gold), but soon enough the Chinese were back on
top again. Not for long, however.
Four positive tests before the 1998 world championships along with
the vials of the human
growth hormone found in breastroker Yuan Yuan's luggage before
the worlds signalled that doping was still thriving in China's pools.
Though the country maintained there was no systemic doping on its
swim teams, the statistics say otherwise.
Over 40 Chinese swimmers since 1990 have failed drug tests. That's
triple the amount of any other swimming country during the same period
After pressure from FINA, swimming's governing body, China's swim
association promised stricter drug testing and higher penalties for
Just before the 2000 Sydney Olympics, China removed four swimmers
from its team because of "suspicious" drug test results.
Chinese swimmers were rarely on the podium in major competitions until
the 2003 world aquatic championships in Barcelona. There, the women's
team collected seven swimming medals, including three gold.
Whether those swims were clean or not, China's young swimmers will
have to compete under a cloud of suspicion for years to come due to
the generation of cheaters before them.
7. Tour de France
Enthusiasts say the Tour de France is the biggest, hardest, most gruelling
race there is, a prize so precious that cyclists will do anything
to win. And they have.
In the past, riders have scattered broken glass and fans have tossed
nails on the road to confound rivals. And that's just for starters.
In the 1960s, riders attempted to gain a competitive edge with amphetamines
and alcohol. In doing so, Britain's Tim Simpson lost his life during
the 1967 Tour.
Some say cycling faced a near death following the 1998 doping scandal
in which French officials caught an employee of the Festina cycling
team with a carload of performance-enhancing drugs, including erythropoietin
(EPO) – a hormone that helps the blood carry more oxygen, letting
you go faster and longer on your two wheels.
Following an arrest in the case, six of Festina's nine riders conceded
they had used performance-enhancing drugs, including current Credit
Agricole team leader Christophe Moreau. Later that year, he tested
positive for anabolic
In early 2002, Italy's Stefano Garzelli, leader of the Vini Caldirola
team, tested positive for traces of probenecid, a diuretic
that can be used to mask other drugs. And Spanish cyclist Igor Gonzalez
de Galdeano was banned from this past summer's Tour de France after
a test during the 2002 event found excessive levels of an anti-asthma
And most recently, in January 2004, French police seized male hormones,
and arrested two cyclists in the anti-doping investigation involving
Cofidis, one of France's top teams and home to three world champions.
8. Baseball: andro,
steroids and supplements
Between Mark McGwire's andro
usage and Ken Caminiti's revelation in Sports Illustrated about
steroids in baseball, the sport is having an image crisis.
McGwire went from the svelte American League rookie of the year in
1987 to the heavy-hitting home run king who broke Roger Maris' single-season
home run record in 1998.
McGwire said the transformation in his size was the combination of
hard work and an over-the-counter testosterone-producing pill called
Andro became controversial because it is banned by the IOC, NFL, NBA
and NHL, but not by Major League Baseball.
In May of 2002, Jose Canseco announced his retirement from baseball,
and as a parting shot (and perhaps a promo for his tell-all book)
he said 85 per cent of all baseball players used steroids. Later,
Canseco admitted to taking steroids himself.
Later that month, Sports Illustrated published an investigative
report describing professional baseball as "a pharmacological trade
show." In the article, former National League MVP Ken Caminiti told
the magazine "at least half the guys are using steroids."
In November of 2003, MLB announced that between five to seven per
cent of 1,438 anonymous tests on all players came back positive for
steroids this year the equivalent of nearly two full major
league rosters. As part of the league's drug policy, the findings
mean there will be random testing again next season, with players
facing sanctions and possible public exposure.
The latest scar on the sport is the connection between San Francisco
Giants left fielder Barry Bonds and the nutritional supplements company
BALCO, the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, which is reportedly the
source of the designer steroid, THG.
Several major league players appeared before a federal grand jury
investigating BALCO, including Bonds, who shattered the single-season
home run record in 2001, and New York Yankees first baseman Jason
9. Cross-country skiing
& doping: a Nordic tradition
Attention cross-country skiers: If you want to cheat, you may not
want to leave that blood-transfusion equipment lying around your house.
That's what some members of the Austrian cross-country ski team did
at the Salt Lake City Olympic Games. The IOC began an investigation
after a cleaner found blood-transfusion materials in a residence used
by the Austrians during the Games.
The team's results were reassessed, and after a three-month investigation,
two athletes (non-medallists) were disqualified and two team officials
were banned from the next two Winter Olympics.
The Austrians claimed the equipment was used for ultraviolet radiation
treatment of athletes' blood to treat and prevent colds and flu, not
for performance-enhancing purposes.
Doping has been rampant in cross-country skiing for years. Use of
or erythropoietin, is as common as ski wax, and blood doping has become
Six Finnish skiers tested positive for HES – a banned plasma
volume expander – at the 2001 world championships in Finland,
one of the biggest doping scandals in the sport. It exposed some of
Finland's top stars including Jari Isometsa, Mika Myllyla, Janne Immonen
and Harri Kirvesniemi.
Also at the Salt Lake Games, three skiers certainly didn't help the
tainted image of their sport by testing positive for the drug darbepoetin.
boosts the production of red blood cells that help carry oxygen to
muscles. The drug is used to treat severe anemia, which can be caused
by chronic kidney illness or by chemotherapy treatment.
Hey, whatever helps you get ahead of the competition, right?
Two of those athletes caught – Russian medallists Olga Danilova
and Larissa Lazutina (right) – didn't get far ahead for long.
Eighteen months after Salt Lake City, the Court of Arbitration for
Sport ruled that Canadian Beckie Scott, who finished third in the
five-kilometre pursuit, should be awarded the gold medal since Danilova
and Lazutina were ineligible due to previous failed drug tests.
10. Nandrolone and nutritional
Over the past decade, the sporting world has seen a rash of positive
tests for the banned steroid nandrolone,
giving it the unofficial title as the most common drug used
intentionally or inadvertently by athletes today.
Nandrolone has been implicated in hundreds of recent doping cases
involving athletes in just about every sport, especially track and
field, cycling, soccer and tennis.
And almost immediately after these failed drug tests, the denials
and excuses follow. The most common reason for a positive test? Contaminated
nutritional supplements, vitamins and energy drinks.
Because of the unusual number of positive tests, scientists believe
the steroid may be contained in improperly labelled nutritional supplements
popular with high-performance athletes. However, the IOC and IAAF,
track and field's governing body, stipulate that athletes are responsible
for what they put in their bodies.
In January 2004, Canadian-born British tennis star Greg Rusedski joined
a long list of athletes who have tested positive for nandrolone. He
isn't the only tennis player, either. According to reports, 47 players
on the pro tour have tested positive for the banned steroid.
Read more about nandrolone's impact