Sunday, April 27, 2008

PBS Secrets of the Dead

I've seen this show from time to time on our local PBS stations, but it is not broadcast on a regular basis, unforunately. The summary of this show particularly caught my attention:

From The New York Times
Going for the Grisly Gives a Show Staying Power

... The series, produced by WNET in New York, starts its eighth season on Wednesday on most stations. It has been well received by critics and has scooped up numerous awards, including several Cine Golden Eagles, which honor documentaries, and three Emmy nominations.

“The stories that work either shed some light on a moment in history we know a lot about or a moment that has been forgotten,” said Jared Lipworth, executive producer of the series.
There are also few well-known names attached to “Doping for Gold,” the May 7 “Secrets of the Dead” episode, which goes back to the East Germany of the 1960s, ’70 and ’80s, when officials systematically gave testosterone and steroids to athletes. The story has particular resonance, Mr. Lipworth said, because of today’s sports steroid scandals.

At the centerpiece of the “Secrets of the Dead” episode is the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, when the artificially enhanced East German delegation won 40 gold medals, and its women’s swim team captured 11 of 13 events.

Behind the scenes the young female athletes — without their knowledge or consent — were given so many drugs that one was masculinized and underwent a sex-change operation. Others later suffered serial miscarriages and serious health problems.

“They were very strong women; they were very fast; we thought they were machines,” Wendy Boglioli, a member of the 1976 United States swim team, says in the film.

If nothing else, the episode is an important cautionary tale for young athletes today about the dangers of doping, Ms. Boglioli said in an interview. “If you don’t buy that cheating is wrong, look at what it does medically,” Ms. Boglioli said. “That’s what’s paramount in this film.”

I cannot say that I remember the summer Olympics from 1976; I vaguely recall doping scandals from much later Olympics. So - who were these women and what happened to them?

The photo is Kornelia Ender, who won 4 gold medals for East Germany at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. I cannot believe that no one questioned the physique on this broad back then! I've never seen a woman who looks like this in real life. For Goddess sake!

I found this little information about the after-effects of the massive drugs that were (supposedly without their consent) given to the East German female athletes:

The women on the 1976 swim team were teens and preteens when they were given these steroids. Now, they report many adverse effects from this “secret” drug use including birth defects, enlarged hearts and gynecological problems – including one team member who has had multiple miscarriages (Naimzadeh).

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