Back in the van, they head to the house where the Babashoff family has lived since Shirley was 14 and where she and Adam have been living with her father, Jack, while her own house is being renovated. On the mantel are photos of her brothers—Jack Jr., who took a silver in the 100 free in Montreal, and Billy, who swam at UCLA—and her younger sister, Debbie, who was a 1986 national 1,500-free champion. Their mother, Vera, died in 1989 at 54.
Babashoff's father was a machinist at Bethlehem Steel's plant in Vernon, Calif., by day and took other jobs at night. "It was through my mom's saving everything that we afforded swimming," says Shirley, who began at age eight.
Jack Sr., 64 and retired, is the source of Shirley's height (5'10") and, just now, her irritation. "You don't come home," she hisses. "You go missing in action, and I'm not supposed to worry?"
Jack says he's going to dig out the stump of a peach tree at Shirley's house. As Shirley and Adam take their iced tea and Diet Coke into the backyard, Shirley explains that when her father returned that morning from a visit to the mountains, he was a day late and hadn't called, so Shirley was frantic—still is, faintly.
Adam is swinging on a small orange tree that sags under his weight. "My mom was a great mom," says Shirley. "We weren't half as wild as this guy."
Adam drops out of the tree in a shower of leaves and then bonks himself on the head with a hollow plastic bat and collapses theatrically with crossed eyes.
While he fights to regain consciousness, Babashoff casts back to when she first knew something was different about the East German swimmers. "Before 1973 I didn't know what a steroid was," she says. "Then, at the worlds that year in Belgrade, the East Germans won 10 of 14 races. They were huge, and they were beating us by yards. Belgrade hurt us for a lot of years. Morale was down. Some of our girls were going in—Adam, lay that tomato trellis down so the poky things aren't sticking up—already beaten. I mentioned to a reporter before Montreal that the East German women looked like men. One breaststroker, I swear she was a guy. So it looked like I was a rotten sport even before I swam."
Babashoff does not believe she was psyched out of producing her stubborn best. "I didn't give up," she says. "Heck, I swam on the boys' teams in high school. I was used to competing against men."
But her opponents weren't her only problems. "Three weeks before the most important meet of your life, the Olympic staff takes your personal coach away and gives you another one," she says. "They gave me Frank somebody [U.S. women's assistant coach Frank Elm of Milltown, N.J.], and he made me do no sprints in camp. I was given some ridiculous practices, like 5 x 1,500 when I was to race the sprints. I'd qualified in the 400 individual medley too, but I was allowed nothing but distance freestyle in training, so I ended up not swimming the IM in Montreal because I hadn't practiced three of the strokes. I know I'd have more gold medals if I'd had my personal coach, Mark Schubert, there. I feel worse about that than about the drugs. I could've beaten the East Germans anyway with Mark." (Elm denies that he limited Babashoff's training. "Every girl had every opportunity to do anything she wanted to," he says.)
Babashoff has no memory of any serious conversation with Ender. "No, they stayed to themselves," Babashoff says of the East Germans. "What was I going to say, 'Congratulations...you took the most steroids.' I don't sound bitter, do I?"