It might be said that the World Weightlifting Championships, which were held in Columbus, Ohio last week, began on an upbeat. It might also be said that he who is up had better be prepared to be taken down. Which is precisely what happened in Columbus. Before anyone could say Federation Haltersphile Internationale, that body, which governs weight lifting, had disqualified nine of the first 12 medalists for having taken "ups," or amphetamines. It was the first all-out crackdown on drugs in weight lifting, perhaps the most far-reaching ever in any sport, and although the lifters had been warned the FHI would enforce its rule against drugs, no one listened.
The competitors had come from 34 countries, intent upon enjoying themselves, lifting weights and eating. They were taken on a guided tour of a shopping center and sunbathed on the lawn in front of their dormitory—several of them in under shorts. "What else is a man to do if he left his bathing suit in Europe?" said one. And did they eat. Seconds, thirds, fourths...until they were told that their $5-a-day meal ticket entitled them to three meals a day—one at a time.
A minor setback. Vasily Alexeyev, Russia's 6'1", 300-pound superheavyweight, soon provided comic relief. Seems that after one of his workouts he headed for the car he thought was waiting to take him back to the dorm. Seems that the woman in the car was there to pick up her teenage son, and was aghast when Alexeyev flopped into the backseat. "Out," she cried. Poor Vasily, whose command of English is slight, tried to tell her which way to drive him. Pointing toward the dormitory, he said, "Go."
At last help came. Alexeyev got into the right car, but everyone didn't live happily ever after.
Somewhere in Columbus a Dr. Gwendolyn Carson, who was to become more mysterious a figure with each passing day, was making startling findings. Her job was to test urine samples taken from the three top finishers in each of the nine weight classes. Her first tests showed unmistakable evidences of amphetamines, so she phoned Dr. Elmer Diltz, an osteopathic physician and the meet doctor. What they needed was a standard against which the tests could be measured. Dr. Diltz volunteered, took 75 milligrams of amphetamines and had his specimen tested.
These events took place a week ago Sunday. On Monday Dr. Carson made her first report. It indicated that all three flyweight medalists—a Hungarian, a Pole and a Russian—had taken massive doses of stimulants. Clarence Johnson, president of the FHI, convened a meeting of his executive committee the next morning, and it was decided to uphold Article 23, Rule 5(f), which states that any lifter found guilty of taking "dope" may be expelled, and to award the medals to the fourth-, fifth-and sixth-place finishers. By this time the tests of the bantamweights had also been completed, and two of them—a Hungarian and a Pole—were disqualified. Four more lifters were stripped of their medals in the next two days—two Poles, one Japanese and one Hungarian. From then on all tests were negative.
Many competitors, both from Communist bloc nations and elsewhere, complained that it was unjust that specimens from only the first three finishers were examined, since it was a virtual certainty that those who had been moved up also had taken stimulants. The value of taking amphetamines was also debated. Some insisted that it was an advantage. Others, such as former U.S. Olympians Tommy Kono and Isaac Berger and U.S. Coach John Terpak, said that "ups" had merely a psychological effect.