The German Democratic Republic may have had a relatively small population – 16-million people – and a short history, but it was extremely successful at the Olympic Games. From 1976 to 1988, the country came second in three summer Olympics, only behind the Soviet Union. They also finished second at four Winter Olympics, and won more medals than any other nation at the 1984 winter games in Sarajevo.
It was just before 7:00 AM on an autumn morning in 1978 when 18-year-old Renate Neufeld was awakened by the Secret Police. Her dormitory, which was off-limits even to her parents when they visited, was invaded by Stasi officers, who – in their mechanical compliance to indiscernible demands – took the young sprinter away for questioning.
As a relative newcomer to the TSC Berlin Sports Club, Neufeld was unique. Like her classmates, she grew up in East Germany, but unlike the rest of the sequestered school, her daily routine through adolescence hadn’t been meted out by the Socialist Unity Party. Most of the students there were hand-selected at the age of twelve to become future representatives of East Germany at the Olympic Games. Since being chosen, they trained constantly to reach this goal. From physical exercises to nutrition, regimen and unconditional obedience was a way of life.
Neufeld, a champion hurdler in her teens, didn’t join the school until after she turned 17-years-old. Immediately, her trainer set her up on a sophisticated program that would make up for lost time and reap increased ability from her surprising and untamed talent. Included in this plan was a supplemental diet of grey pills and green powder that he referred to as vitamins. Once she began consuming these “vitamins,” her legs suffered frequent cramps, her voice deepened, facial hair grew on the top of her lip and she ceased menstruating.
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There are two stories emerging from the court proceedings underway in South Africa, which began yesterday to determine if Oscar Pistorius should be allowed bail after he shot and killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp with a 9 mm pistol on February 14th. The first is about the evidence collected by police on that night, and Pistorius’s explanation for its more damning aspects. The second is the media coverage of the first.
Even before a tabloid’s touch, it all seems rather salacious. A national athletic star shoots his model girlfriend, who has a law degree, on Valentine’s Day. These are enough details to send the editors of church newsletters into a tizzy of anticipation. Throw in a possible love triangle with another national sporting star in South Africa, add the “boxes and boxes” of steroids and testosterone that were found at the scene, and don’t forget about the bloody cricket bat that was supposedly used to bash in the door. Now, it seems we can add a feisty legal duel between prosecution and defence.
Suddenly, memories of the O.J. Simpson trial begin to elicit yawns.
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On Tuesday morning, the weekly Miami New Times News released an investigative report that attached the names of several Major League Baseball players to Biogenesis, a recently closed anti-aging clinic that was revealed to be in the business of supplying banned substances from human growth hormone to testosterone to anabolic steroid. Among the names found in the lab’s records were New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, Oakland A’s starting pitcher Bartolo Colon and Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Melky Cabrera.
Nowhere to be found in any of the sourced records was American League Most Valuable Player, and the first hitter in 45 years to win his league’s Triple Crown, Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers.
Nonetheless, such details didn’t stand in the way of Canada’s national television sports network, TSN, from televising a graphic that mistook Melky Cabrera for Miguel Cabrera during its 6:00 PM broadcast of Sports Centre. It’s an extraordinary embarrassment on multiple levels. In addition to Miguel’s being among the most recognizable faces that the game offers, it should be remembered that Melky signed a free agent contract this off season with the only Canadian team in the Major Leagues, a team with which a Canadian national television sports network might be somewhat familiar.
Image via @DHSpeedagon.