Backwash features short clips, gossip, letters and opinions. Contributions are welcome.
36 Olympic athletes from 15 countries, 23 of them medalists, 13 of them champions, answered the call from Mark Tewksbury to do something positive about the scandal-ridden Olympic movement.
OATH (Olympic Athletes Together Honourably) had its founding meeting in early June in New York. Attending were Australian Olympic legend Dawn Fraser; John Naber (USA), Johan Olav Koss (NOR), Zola Budd (RSA), Canadian stars Gaetan Boucher, Jean-Luc Brassard, Renn Crichlow, and Brian Orser, U.S. triple-jump star Willie Banks, and 1972 Olympic champion Mary Peters (pentathlon), a former president of the British Olympic Association.
The syposium was also attended by non-athletes: Andrew Jennings, author of books exposing Olympic corruption years ago, Jack Donohue, former Canadian basketball coach, and noted academics and politicians interested in the Olympics.
The symposium was called Ignite the Democratic Flame, but the difficulties of gaining a voice in Olympic reform are still ahead. OATH's aim will be to restore the values underlying the principles of the Olympic charter, namely fairness and ethical behaviour. The group is also calling for "responsible governance and effective management" of the Olympic movement.
Seed money to get the movement underway has been provided by auto parts giant Magna International Inc. to the tune of $250,000 (U.S.) for this symposium.
Dawn Fraser, winner of three consecutive Olympic golds in the 100 freestyle (1956-60-64) and a former independent member of parliament in Australia, suggested some money-saving ideas for the financially troubled Sydney Olympics next year. IOC members should come down from their "ivory towers" and, instead of staying in five-star luxury accomodations during the Olympic Games, she suggests that they stay in the athletes' village and rub shoulders with the athletes. She also suggests that they could ride the athletes buses instead of using limousines. They could also economize by dining in the athlete village cafeteria.
Ireland's triple Olympic champion Michelle Smith de Bruin has had to accept defeat.
On June 6, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne announced it had decided to uphold FINA's four-year ban on the swimmer for manipulation charges. The court said Smith de Bruin had failed to convince them that anyone else but she could have added alcohol—most likely whiskey—to a urine sample collected by out-of-competition testers in January of 1998. According to FINA rules, manipulation is regarded as a doping offence. The 29-year-old swimmer issued a statement through her lawyer saying she was "deeply saddened by the decision of the court" and maintained that she was innocent. "I have never used any banned substance in the course of my carreer nor have I ever been charged by FINA of using any banned substance," read the statement. She went on to say that she was proud of her achievements in Atlanta and Seville, and that she still believed she had been targetted by FINA since her Olympic successes.
One week later, Smith de Bruin told an Irish newspaper that she was expecting a baby in November. She maintained that the pregnancy was not because she had realized her swimming career was over, but because she had "had an illness," and had been advised that "the only way to sort it out was to start a family."
On June 21 a former East German sports official, identified by the sports agency SID as Dietbert Freiberg, was sentenced to six months in jail by a Berlin court after being found guilty of doping and causing bodily harm to athletes and swimmers in the 1970s and 1980s. It was the first time that anyone has been sentenced to prison in connection with the systematic doping that came to light after the collapse of the communist state. However, because the sentence was under two years and the man has no previous convictions, it was immediately converted to a suspended sentence.
The 56-year-old physician, who was the deputy director of the East German Sports Medicine Service (SMD) from 1977 to 1984, was found guilty on 72 counts of bodily harm. Freiberg was active in providing anabolic steroids to coaches and athletes, and instructing them in their use. Twenty former East German swimmers had actually filed charges against him. Further suspended sentences of former sports officials are expected.
In early June, two more Chinese swimmers tested positive for Clenbuterol, the anabolic substance made famous by former East German track athletes Kathrin Krabbe and Grit Breuer. This time, two male swimmers, Xiong Guoming and Wang Wei, were caught in FINA out-of-competition testing before the World Short Course Championships in Hong Kong in April. The samples were tested in the accredited laboratory in Barcelona and the B samples were to be tested mid-month. No doubt the announcement was a sock in the eye for the Chinese, as it constitutes a second offence for both swimmers: Xiong Guoming is one of seven swimmers who tested positive for the masking agent dehydrotestosterone following the World Championships in 1994. He was suspended for two years, but last December he was back, winning a gold medal in the 200 IM at the Asian Games in Bangkok. Wang Wei's case is even more astounding.
The swimmer is already serving a two-year suspension after having tested positive for the diuretic Triamterene at the World Championships in Perth in 1998! Apparently also planning a comeback, he continued to train and was therefore on hand when testers showed up. The most recent positive tests therefore mean the two men are faced with a lifetime ban from the sport, depending on the decision of the FINA Doping Panel. As for the Chinese Swimming Federation itself, internal doping controls have turned up more than 10 positives during the past 10 months.
According to an article in the Swiss newspaper Le Matin, researchers in France have found a test for erythropoetin (EPO) that could be used to detect use of the substance as soon as this July for the Tour de France. Professor Gerard Dine of the Biotechnical Institute in Troyes says it may be tight, but the test could be used if organizers want to implement it.
The test is based on the principle that the use of synthetic EPO results in a change of one's biological profile. Therefore, the test detects not the substance itself, but evidence of its use. Changes in the blood can be determined that would not be present naturally. Dine maintains the test has passed all validation processes and is perfectly viable. "The analytical instruments exist" he went on, "and the test could restore some credibility to performance. We are only proposing it. Now it's up to the sport authorities and institutions that govern such things." Tour de France organizers are apparently looking into using the test in this year's Tour, but maintain that the manner in which such controls are conducted is the responsibility of the federal government, and not the event organizers themselves.
When the U.S. federal government gender equity (Title IX) requirements were made into law in 1977, they were intended to foster equal treatment for women in sports at the institutional level. Since then many men's programs have been dropped by American universities. The latest to do so is Northern Arizona University.
The university will honor the scholarships of students participating in the men's swimming and diving program or will try to help these studentys if they wish to transfer for competitive reasons. The most famous men's program cancelled was at UCLA in 1991.
Given the current state of mediocre swimming in this country, I am rather dismayed by profiles of swimmers, coaches, and clubs, and their methods of training. In particular, it disappoints me that such a widely read magazine profiles coaches with unscientific, experience-driven theories of training that happen to function well with a select group of athletes. This being said, the coach and club may deserve credit for successfully adapting a training program to the physiological and psychological needs of a talented athlete. The problem is that the majority of people reading the article lack the scientific background to critically review the program and understand its potential implications if applied directly to their own situation.
With only the ability to speculate at the purpose of including such profiles, comments can still be made as to their potential consequences. With reference to the article "What Makes Lake Erie Unique is the Intensity of its Workouts" (May 1999), a general outline of the training program was provided. It included details like "the team does not do recovery sets" and that "everything is done hard." It would seem plausible that a typical NCCP-trained coach would read such an article, assess the points made, and then possibly modify his/her program. Unfortunately, the average NCCP-trained coach does not have sufficient background to critically review the program outlined by Jerry Holtrey. If the predominant message of "no-recovery" and "everything done hard" is taken to heart by a coach, it could serve to overtrain and/or injure many of his/her swimmers. It wouldn't be completely unfounded that a less-knowledgeable coach would implement changes to his/her program given the credibility provided by Mr. Holtrey's 33 years of experience and recent successes. However, it is well-documented in the scientific literature that the human body does not adapt to chronic training without a recovery period.
Furthermore, it is imperative that training factors such as volume and intensity be increased progressively in a stepwise fashion for optimal adaptation to occur. This fact is disregarded in the profile where "everything is done hard" is emphasized.
Also lost upon the less-knowledgeable reader is the statistical notion of the normal distribution. Necessarily, each profile focuses on the star(s) of the club, in this case Erica Rose and Diana Munz. The biology of a human being can vary substantially between individuals and thus two athletes may not adapt identically to the same stimuli. It must be asked how many Lake Erie swimmers get overtrained, burn out psychologically, and end up quitting the sport due to the constant high intensity and volume of Mr. Holtrey's program? Training principles (i.e., progression, overload, specificity, etc.) elucidated scientifically, apply to the largest amount of people in the population. Case study methods, which this type of profile article represents, could be quite dangerous to the less-knowledgeable coach's swimmers. Moreover, how often are follow-up articles done that detail changes in the swimmers' training and life? It will be fascinating to follow these two outstanding swimmers in the upcoming years to see how they progress under this "intense" program.
It is undoubtedly interesting to read what others in the sport are doing. However, given the present Canadian system of educating coaches, it seems a disservice to print profiles such as the one discussed because the training programs may only apply to a limited number of swimmers. If SWIMNEWS wants to share information with the goal of enhancing swimming training programs, it would be better to provide unbiased synopses of scientific studies in which the conclusions, if applied, would have the most potential benefit.
Thank you for the great contribution to Canadian and world swimming via SWIMNEWS Magazine. I can only imagine the tremendous amount of time and energy required to consistently produce such a world-class effort on a monthly basis.
At the outset of each season, during our goal-setting sessions, many of the young swimmers I coach establish as their #1 goal a placing in the TAG (Top 50 Age Group Rankings). This past short course season two London Aquatic Club swimmers had great performances in the girls 11-12 400 IM at the Ontario Junior Provincials, which were overlooked in the final listing in your April 1999 issue. Amanda Long's 5:17.85 would have ranked her second and Brittany Cooper's 5:18.50 third.
Given the hard work they put in, and the dedication and commitment to their goals that both of these young swimmers displayed throughout the season, I would like to ensure that they gain the recognition they deserve. The London Aquatic Club is certainly proud of their performances.
Andrew Craven, Age Group Coach
London Aquatic Club
Editor's note: The results that I downloaded from Swim Ontario's internet site did not include this event. I received at a later date a print version that had this event. In the rush to complete the April issue with all the provincial results this was missed. Here are the top 10 corrected 11-12 girls 400 IM rankings:
400 METRES IND.MEDLEY 1 5:15.70 779 ONAGMAR Laura Wise,12,COBRA 2 5:17.85 769 ONAGMAR Amanda Long,11,LAC 3 5:18. 765 ONAGMAR Brittany Cooper,12,LAC 4 5:19.67 760 WJRNATS Mallory Hoekstra,11,EKSC 5 5:20.47 756 BCAGMAR Courtenay Mulhern,12,PSW 6 5:20.95 753 YOUTHDEC Brittany Segeren,12,HHAC 7 5:22.71 745 BRANTNOV Levana Pang,12,TORCH 8 5:23.44 741 BRANTNOV Jacquelyn Craft,12,TRENT 9 5:24.17 738 BRANTNOV Julia Guay-Racine,12,CAMO 10 5:24.98 734 BCAGMAR Valerie Pomaizl,12,NRST
While recently discussing our sport with a friend, he expressed his regret that as a child he did not have the opportunity to get involved in competitive swimming. It got me thinking about where swimming stands in Canada, specifically its relationship with the general public.
One thing that I've noticed is young parents' lack of awareness about the availability of the sport to their children. Swimming Canada does little to help teams recruit young swimmers. The largest potential market that our sport can draw upon is the children who take Red Cross lessons, as it is an easy transition into club swimming. Surely an ad campaign aimed at those young swimmers and parents would aid in raising the popularity of swimming in Canada, as well as develop a larger talent pool, and increase financial stability for smaller teams.
Something that I've realized through discussions with non-swimmers is the fact that swimming in Canada has no image. Of course, any swimmer will name someone they idolize, like Myden or Malar. But the fact is that the rest of the country has no one that embodies all the greatness of our sport, whom they picture when swimming comes to mind. When asked, they would probably name Mark Spitz. Only staunch swimming enthusiasts or fans of the Olympic Games would be able to name a great Canadian swimmer of this decade. We have no Gretzkys, Jordans, or McGuires to represent us to the rest of the world. Indeed, professional athletes cannot really be compared to amateurs, but even amateur athletes can project an image—look at Elvis Stojko and Donovan Bailey. They are the figureheads for their sports, the ultimate attention-getters and idols.
Much of their popularity is based on their talent, but their respective sports also market them in order to promote themselves. Swimming needs to choose one or two successful members of the National Team and together with a marketing company, create a "poster boy" or "poster girl" who can promote our sport through the variety of available media and become recognizable to the non-swimming public. Give the swimmers an icon to be proud of, one whom their peers are familiar with. Give the country a household name whom they can rally behind. When was the last time that the words "household name" or "fans at home" have been associated with swimming? Choose someone talented, but who also possesses the other qualities that are required to be marketable in this day and age. Choose someone flamboyant, attractive, perhaps even controversial, because mild sensationalism fuels today's media (think of Ross Rebagliati in snowboarding). If nothing else, choose someone who will sell our sport, who will attract sponsors, attract new talent, and put people in the seats at Nationals who aren't just watching their own kids. It will be a long time before swimming ever has a high profile in Canada, but even an attempt at reaching that goal will keep the sport moving in the right direction.
Remember... It's not true until it has been officially denied