Sunday, September 23, 2007

Socialism's striving for medals

I remember well the Olympics in Seoul, one of the most competitive countries was East Germany, with an impressive medal tally - 102 - unfortunately what was also noticeable was how some of the female athletes looked little like being female. Critics at the time would be accused by leftwing feminists of being patriarchal and judgmental - the truth was bleaker, the steroid many were forced to take were changing their hormonal balance. Heidi Krieger (now Andreas Krieger), 1986 European shot put champion, had a sex change operation in 1997 directed attributable to the drugs she was forced to take to perform. She could have said no? Well of course, and no longer been an athlete and be seen to be disloyal to the great socialist state.
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Of course, the Olympic spirit was that politics and sport should not mix, but that was hardly the case for decades. Hitler ensured the 1936 Berlin Olympics were to be a triumph of Nazi glorification of order and prosperity. Certainly Moscow in 1980, LA in 1984 and Seoul in 1988 were all about thumbing noses ideologically. The Stalinist authorities of East Berlin treated it as such, as East Germany's best athletes were encouraged to perform their best for the "German Democratic Republic" - this meant being forced to take steroids. Now, as the Sunday Telegraph has revealed it included construction of an underground training facility which included a depressurised bunker designed to mimic conditions at an altitude of 4,000 metres, as athletes would have to produce more red blood cells, improving their performance.
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"Athletes were ordered to train underground for weeks on end, being sent off to big contests only when their red blood cell count was drastically raised. Because of the immense psychological strain of the hard training in an isolated subterranean environment, some considered it a form of torture"
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Only slightly amusing is how in the underground facility, banned Western songs by Bruce Springsteen and Supertramp were among those played, as a "reward", so that they could be happier while training.
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The tragedy of lives ruined by the 20th century experiment with Marxism-Leninism continues to be found. Around 2000 former athletes in the GDR had their health damaged due to Erich Honeker's enslavement of them for medals, how many in China face the same pressure today?

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