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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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"The weekend of October 7," Ender says, "thousands of East Germans stormed the West German embassy in Prague, demanding passes. We were living in Suhl. We drove east to Steffen's parents in Kamenz [near the Czech border]. The Stasi followed us because they thought we were planning to go to Czechoslovakia. There were nine Stasi cars around their house. Every time we left, they followed."

After two days the Grummts gave up and started home. "Steffen remembered a shortcut through the fields," says Ender. "In the dark we gave them the slip. When we got home, we called his dad. He said, 'All nine cars are still here.' So in case they had the phone tapped, we talked about what lazy guys they were."

A day later the regime of President Erich Honecker began bowing to the inevitable. Trainloads of East Germans were allowed to leave Czechoslovakia for West Germany. On Nov. 9 the Berlin Wall came down. The Grummts were soon settled in the West. Steffen now works for the German Sports Federation in Mainz. Kornelia practices physiotherapy in a doctor's office in Nierstein, 12 kilometers from their village.

"He was so neat, I just looked at my son for a year after he was born," says Babashoff, directing her van toward the beach. "Then I decided I needed a part-time job, so I went to a sporting-goods store." Soon she was assistant manager, slave to a 48-hour week under fluorescent lights. This was not for an outdoorswoman.

"So I passed the test for carrier at the post office, waited a year and put in 70-hour weeks as a part-time flexible employee, getting the worst routes in the city," she says. "Even my first route as a regular carrier wasn't great, because you get routes by bidding on them, and seniority wins. Cop. Adam, duck."

Adam drops out of sight behind the engine hump as a patrol car passes. His usual front seat and seat belt have been taken by a guest. "It's a $200 fine if they catch you without your belt," says Babashoff. "Now, stay in the back and cinch yourself in," she tells Adam. "Where was I? Mail. It's a great job. A lot of times people run out to get their mail. Old ladies come and talk to me. I like to feel I'm checking up on 'em. It's not delivering babies, but it's outside. Here we are."

The Huntington Beach neighborhood is leafy and well kept. "Deceptive," says Babashoff. "I got shot at last year, unlocking that apartment house's mailboxes. I heard a pop, and something hit the wall beside my hand. It had already been a bad day. I had a person who liked to come out for his mail unclothed. I'd just spoken to a police officer about that, so I flagged the officer back, and I'm sure he thought, This girl's crazy. But he caught the kid who'd fired the shot, and he confessed. He said it was, like, a joke. I went to court and saw him sentenced to three weekends picking up trash on the freeway. The D.A. thought he did a great job. I was sick to my stomach. It's scary being shot at."

Adam's voice comes, frail and distant, from the back of the van: "I shot my dad, you know...."

"The bonus," continues Babashoff, "was that the post office decided to be a 1992 Olympic sponsor. So all year Adam and I have been flying off several times a month to do appearances and give talks on the Olympics. We've seen cliff dwellings in Colorado, Disney World, even the Denver Mint."

"It wasn't real bullets, just a BB gun," says Adam.

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