SI Vault
Edited by Alexander Wolff and Kostya Kennedy
September 04, 1995
Spurious George
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September 04, 1995


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Spurious George

Twenty-One years ago last week, George Steinbrenner pleaded guilty to two felony counts of making illegal contributions to Richard Nixon's 1972 reelection campaign. To honor the occasion, New York's weekly Village Voice rummaged through 14 boxes of documents in the National Archives to learn more about the crimes for which the New York Yankees' principal owner, after an intense lobbying campaign, was fully pardoned days before Ronald Reagan left office in 1989. The files paint a picture not of the swashbuckling leader Steinbrenner fancies himself to be, but of a decidedly yellow fellow who, desperate to cut a deal that would keep him out of prison, was willing to sing to Watergate prosecutors about others who made illegal donations to the Nixon team.

Through a spokesman, Steinbrenner told SI last week that it was his lawyers, not he, who proposed that he snitch.

But the documents also suggest that the $100,000 Steinbrenner donated to Nixon and his campaign was not, as the Boss has long maintained, to better position his hometown of Cleveland for federal assistance under a second Nixon term, but to secure an ambassadorship for his brother-in-law, Jacob Kamm. " Canada would be his first choice," Steinbrenner wrote to Maurice Stans, the finance chairman of the Committee to Re-Elect the President, just after Nixon's reelection. "And following Canada in order are Denmark and Norway."

Yankee fans have no choice but to put their faith in Steinbrenner, even though his management-by-intimidation, ritual second-guessing and refusal to accept blame have failed to bring a world championship to the Bronx for 17 years. But it's baffling that the U.S. Olympic Committee, pledged to upholding lofty standards of fair play, would sully its reputation by adding to its executive board someone whose public life has been marked by two things—wanting to win at all costs and cheating at the game of politics. Steinbrenner again ran afoul of authorities, earning banishment from baseball in 1990 for paying gambler Howard Spira for dirt on Dave Winfield, but the USOC welcomed him back as soon as the commissioner's office had done so.

Fact is, Steinbrenner's ability to win it all, which is sometimes invoked to excuse his behavior, is a chimera. Even his latest moves have backfired; since he brought in Ruben Sierra, David Cone and Darryl Strawberry for the stretch, the Yanks have gone from 4� to 15� games out. It's up to Buck, Steinbrenner said last week, trying to pawn the team's failures off on manager Buck Showalter. Figures. Steinbrenner is a buck passer in every sense of the word.

Old News
In its coverage of the recent world track and field championships in G�teborg, Sweden, the Newark Star-Ledger made reference to Nigerian quarter-miler Sunday Bada. But as a result of excessively fastidious copyediting, the eighth-place finisher in the 400 meters found his identity inadvertently altered in Monday's paper. His new name: Yesterday Bada.

No Dope

For all the sadness that spread through the international sports community last week after the death of Dr. Manfred Donike of a heart attack at age 61, some people no doubt let out sighs of relief. With his death, beating the system might have gotten a lot easier. For the past quarter century there was no more committed or ingenious fighter against performance-enhancing drugs than Donike, the International Olympic Committee doping commission secretary who nabbed 100-meter gold medalist Ben Johnson at the 1988 Olympics and world champion sprinter Katrin Krabbe in 1992. Said Don Catlin, whose laboratory at UCLA handles much of the sports drug testing done in the U.S., "This is a staggering blow."

Flamboyant, quarrelsome and at times controversial, Donike was first exposed to doping from the inside, as a professional cyclist from 1955 to '62. ("The doping stuff just didn't work for me," he would say of his days as a competitor in that drug-infested sport.) In 1978 his laboratory in Cologne recorded the first positive result for anabolic steroids, and in '83, working out of a portable lab at the Pan Am Games in Caracas, Donike changed the face of international sports. There he touched off an exodus of athletes who decided they would rather not compete than submit their samples to Donike's scrutiny; then he nailed 19 athletes who chose to stay. He would go on to devise the first legitimate means of measuring artificial testosterone levels and establish an archive of chemical profiles of more than 6,000 athletes against which he compared future samples. Donike's impact—every one of the 22 labs accredited by the IOC relies on his methods—will be felt for years. But in the increasingly complex chess match between those who use drugs and those trying to deter their use, the IOC may never again have such a grandmaster on its side.

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