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Babashoff and Ender
Kenny Moore
July 13, 1992
At the 1976 Summer Games two of the top female swimmers in the world—an American and an East German—met. The American won only one gold medal, while her rival won four golds. But had the East German used steroids?
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July 13, 1992

Babashoff And Ender

At the 1976 Summer Games two of the top female swimmers in the world—an American and an East German—met. The American won only one gold medal, while her rival won four golds. But had the East German used steroids?

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On the last day of June, Kornelia Ender and Steffen Grummt make their way through knots of damp, leathery athletes thronging Indiana University's natatorium in Indianapolis for the World Masters Swimming Championships. When they reach the pool deck, Ender spots a woman with a postage-stamp T-shirt next to a red-haired boy. She heads right for them. Grummt hangs back to get their first meeting in 16 years on videotape.

Babashoff knows Ender is entered in the meet. The night before, she dreamed of old teammates. "It was as if I was getting ready to go back to the past," she says. "I woke up and said, 'Where am I, Indiana? When am I? Is this 1976?' "

The smiling Ender offers her hand. Babashoff takes it coolly and introduces Adam. "Why aren't you swimming here?" asks Ender.

"I'm more interested in raising this guy," says Babashoff. "I've got enough to do with my work and him."

Ender is to swim the 100 freestyle and 50 backstroke the next day. She shows Babashoff the heat sheets. "I'm in Lane 8 and scared to death," Ender says. "I've trained so little. Do you know any of these people in my race?" Babashoff can't help her, but she seems softened by Ender's warmth. Ender says her kids, Franzi and Tiffany, are excited about meeting an old rival of their mother's. Is Adam?

Adam says, "Sure."

"It was the media that made us the big rivals of '76," says Babashoff. "I always looked at it like everyone I swam against was my rival."

Soon they are talking about zoos and children's museums, of which the well-traveled Babashoffs have become connoisseurs. Shirley says that two days before, they went through Universal Studios' earthquake, and the next morning they awakened being shaken by a real one. "If you live in L.A., you have to accept 'em," she says. "They're like a ride."

The Babashoffs and Grummts have dinner, joined by friends. Ender notices Adam raptly absorbed in an adventure comic book and asks how he came to read so well before starting first grade. "Montessori school," says Babashoff. "They even taught him how to behave in a restaurant. Being sarcastic he got from me."

Earlier Babashoff had listened to a reporter's assertion that he was not certain Ender was given steroids before the '76 Games. Firmly she replied, "I'm certain. There's no doubt in my mind. Sure, I believe in talent, but don't ask me to believe she was the only one who didn't take 'em." At dinner, however, Babashoff holds her peace. When it is time to go, she says to Ender, "Good luck in your races here. You'll probably win, huh?"

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