Mon | Mar 19, 2018

Hubert Lawrence | First things first

Published:Thursday | May 4, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Merlene Ottey

From 1972 to 1988, East Germany was a superpower in sport. In athletics, the blue vested Germans collected 154 medals in the Olympics and the World Championships with 55 gold medals in that number. Unfortunately, those achievements rested on the use of illegal performance enhances.

Since the unification of Germany in 1990, evidence has surfaced of state- organised doping. Steroids and other substances were administered to athletes, including the young, to build them up into super humans. Many were unwitting guinea pigs. The absence in those days of out-of-competition drug testing allowed the bandwagon to be done in the off season. Part of the deal was that the East Germans would test their athletes before they came into the international arena as a precaution. It worked as only one East German ever tested positive for a banned substance.

These practices have been revealed by former East German athletes and by the declassification of documents from the East German secret service.

The current enthusiasm, evicted by the European Athletics Association, is noble. However, injustice will remain if those 154 medals are not reassigned to those who truly earned them. The intended cleanse will be incomplete without such a move. In the two World Championships contested before Reunification, the blue clad Germans ran, jumped and threw their way to 52 medals. Nineteen of them were gold medals. At the first World Championships in 1983, this powerhouse topped the medal table with 10 gold among a total haul of 22.




Eliminate the East Germans and one other confessor drug violator, Jamaica's Merlene Ottey emerges from the 1980s as World champion in the 1983 sprint double and the 100 metres in 1987.

As things stand, she endured until the 1993 World Championships to edge American Gwen Terrence for gold in the 200 metres. Re-assignment of those 154 East German medals would give Ottey and so many others their due. They deserve it.

Today, 17 years since East Germany last contested an international competition, three of its athletes still hold individual world records. Those are in the men's discus, the women's 400 metres and the women's discus. Perhaps the first move empowered by the new enthusiasm should be to strike those marks off the books.

- Hubert Lawrence has made notes at trackside since 1980.