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1. East Germany's 1976 Olympic Women's Swim Team
There's little question that the Olympics was a far more interesting—if disturbing—spectacle during the Cold War, when the Winter and especially Summer games functioned as a proxy for dueling political and economic systems. Despite some previous successes in international sports, the German Democratic Republic (GDR), a.k.a. East Germany, wasn't exactly a powerhouse. But in the 1976 games in Montreal, the communist country racked up medal after medal, especially in women's swimming, where GDR swimmers won an amazing 11 of 13 events.
The East German athletes and coaches chalked their success up to the moral and material superiority of a system that used scientific methods to identify, promote, and train athletes. American women swimmers, who had expected to grab baskets of gold, complained of unfair advantages ranging from then-illegal pay-to-train schemes to drug-and-hormone therapies. The Americans were widely dubbed sore losers as their only victory came in the 4x100 freestyle relay. One of the team's unofficial spokesmen, Shirley Babashoff, was even dubbed "Surly Shirley" (her mood turned even worse when the U.S.A boycotted the 1980 summer games, thereby killing her and her teammates' shot at a rematch).
Flash forward past the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of the GDR. As it happens, declassified Stasi files document the mass doping of East German athletes by coaches and trainers from about 1974 through the regime's collapse in 1989. The East Germans might not have been able to create a decent car or rock star, but they were indeed miles ahead of the free West when it came to the development and implementation of performance-enhancing drugs. "State plan theme 14-25" produced especially strong results in the pre- or near-pubescent girls on East Germany's swim team whose natural hormone levels—and confidence in an all-powerful state—were boosted big time. As one swimmer put it, “Drips, injections, pills, it was all normal (during training). Nothing strange about it and I wouldn’t have known what to ask because I wasn’t skeptical at all. I didn’t start to look like a man overnight, it happened gradually. I wasn’t really aware of it myself but it was obvious to everyone else. And whether I wore a dress or a skirt, make up or jewelry, it got worse and worse. They called me a transvestite or gay, and it shocked me.”
Despite the revelations, the International Olympic Committee has chosen not to revisit results involving East German athletes.
Is your favorite proven or suspected cheater missing? Just the Olympics alone have got a ton! Talk 'em up in the comments below.