There are fresh calls for Australian athletes who lost to East German competitors suspected of doping to be recognised by the International Olympic Committee.
- Australian sprinter Raelene Boyle won silver in the 100 metres and 200 metres at the Munich Olympics in 1972
- Race winner, East Germany’s Renate Stecher, was suspected of doping as the country had a program of giving athletes performance enhancing drugs
- Stecher has always strongly denied ever doping
The IOC has said that too much time has passed to strip athletes of their medals.
But the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), as well as Australian Olympian Raelene Boyle, argue there should be a compromise involving recognition for those who may have lost out.
The former East German state invested heavily in Olympic success from the 1960s to the 1980s, which included a systematic program of elite athletes taking performance-enhancing drugs.
In 1998 former doctors and coaches admitted in legal proceedings to giving anabolic steroids to East German swimmers.
Despite that, Australian athletes who finished behind them at the Olympics are still seeking justice.
‘The IOC are the ones who can fix it’
Chief amongst them is Australian sprinter Raelene Boyle, who has maintained for decades she was cheated out of gold after finishing second in the 100 and 200 metres to East German Renate Stecher at the Munich Olympics in 1972.
New life was breathed into the controversy a fortnight ago when Boyle confronted IOC president Thomas Bach, calling for him to take action.
Mr Bach has refused to do so, saying he is bound by a statute of limitations relating to doping offences.
Boyle told 7.30 she does not want Stecher stripped of her medals, but she is still asking for official recognition.
“The IOC are the ones who can fix it,” she said.
“Maybe just a letter to say this was a bad period of time in sport, that we know the East Germans probably tried to destroy the Olympics by making themselves a powerhouse.”
When asked by the ABC’s Foreign Correspondent in 2016 about a historical document which quotes an athletics doctor as saying “she would not have achieved her success without the appropriate medications”, Stecher strongly denied ever doping.
‘Never going to happen’
Former Olympian and Commonwealth gold medallist Jane Flemming grew up idealising Boyle.
“Raelene Boyle was my childhood hero. Raelene was extraordinary,” she told 7.30.
“In an ideal world, it would be lovely to see Raelene Boyle awarded a gold medal.
“In a realistic world I think that it’s never going to happen.”
Flemming accepts the IOC’s decision not to formally investigate the dubious East German period as reasonable, given the time that has passed.
And she believes doing so would create huge political problems.
“Going all that way back, nearly 50 years now, to try and put every performance at every Olympic Games under scrutiny around when there were East Germans, or was it Russians, or was it Americans? Or was it Australians? Whoever was [allegedly] taking drugs? You know, how do we find that out?” she said.
But Flemming does believe the IOC should consider a compromise.
“Maybe you don’t take that gold medal away from that person [who won the event], but you maybe present another gold medal,” she suggested.
Former president of WADA, John Fahey, agreed this approach was worth considering.
“I think there is some merit to that,” he said.
“If there’s sufficient evidence for there to be a gesture made by the someone like the IOC to say, look, this was a rotten time in the history of sport, it was clearly at a time which nobody can be proud of and for those who found themselves on the wrong side of all of this cheating that was going on, they would also be recognised.
“That could well mean that two silver medals that Raelene got in the 100 and 200 turned to gold. It would be a fair outcome.”
‘Steroids weren’t being tested for’
Sports historian Tara Magdalinski, from Swinburne University, said there are practical problems the IOC has to grapple with when considering the alleged wrongdoing of the East German athletes.
“We’re asking the IOC to retrospectively apply rules that didn’t apply at the time to an event for which there is no physical evidence [of drug taking],” she told 7.30.
“In 1972, steroids weren’t being tested for, they weren’t banned at that particular point, because there was no test.
“In terms of what East German athletes were taking in the 1970s, it was largely on testosterone to start with, and then later anabolic steroids.
“[But] the organised doping program didn’t really start until the mid-1970s, when a committee was set up to start to plan the distribution of drugs more widely to East German athletes.”
For Boyle, the IOC’s refusal to act will forever cast a dark cloud over the Olympics.
“For me it will, but that that cloud’s been cast a long time ago,” she said.
“I’m quite cynical about the whole movement and how things are dealt with, it’s sad to say.”
The IOC told 7.30 its position was unchanged and it will not take further action due to the statute of limitations.