"I'm a friend of Dr. Daly's," says Russ Hodge, a former decathlete who was in Montreal as a shoe company's rep. "His pride was deeply hurt when American athletes went to Dr. Perry instead of to him. It became extremely touchy. When athletes have a problem, they will go to anyone for relief. Perry would love to work with Daly and Dardik. He doesn't want to replace them. But the polarization of the AMA and the chiropractors has made it hard for everyone. Unfortunately, in the end, it's the athletes who suffer."
When Dardik was asked to explain the USOC's stand, he refused to comment. One of the many athletes who ignored the dictum was Robinson, who won the gold medal in the long jump. "I had pulled a groin muscle," Robinson recalls. "A friend mentioned Dr. Perry. I saw him two days before I jumped and had three or four treatments. I was leery. I had never been to a chiropractor. He took X rays and found I was out of line. He got rid of the pain and that gave me an extra lift. I don't think I would have won without him."
During the Olympic Trials, an M.D. said to decathlon champion-to-be Bruce Jenner, "All chiropractic does is psychological." Jenner, who had been under Perry's care, replied, "If all he does is psychological, then Dr. Perry is probably the most important man here."
Despite the endorsements, Perry not only is without official honor in his own country; he is having a tough time making it in his own backyard. Perry has spent more time with the USC track and field team than with any other group of athletes and has been credited by some with being a vital factor in USC's winning the past four of five conference outdoor championships. Nevertheless, Perry is not permitted to attend Trojan practices, to use USC training facilities or to serve in any official medical capacity.
Dr. Chester Semel, team physician for the USC athletic department, says, "We have a panel of consultants here from all the medical fields. Dr. Perry was not included because we felt we had men with better backgrounds. Yes, his training as a chiropractor was a factor in our not including him."
It is an awkward situation that tends to disturb Coach Vern Wolfe, himself a Perry patient.
"Dr. Perry has helped so many on our team," Wolfe says. "He also practically brought me back from the dead after I had a terrible car crash in September of '77. I thought my shoulder was ruined, had very bad whiplash and didn't think I'd ever be right or be able to coach again. Well, Dr. Perry worked on me, and this year at age 55 I began pole vaulting. Got my first trophy recently when I cleared 10'6" in an age-group meet. Medicare and numerous insurance and medical plans acknowledge chiropractic services, but our athletic department won't. They feel chiropractors are quacks. I can't even recommend Dr. Perry to anyone on my team. I was told point-blank by Dr. Richard H. Perry, our athletic director, not to do so."
Wolfe and his assistant Ken Matsuda have formally protested Perry's banishment: they feel it unjust and hypocritical, because Wolfe and many of his athletes see Perry on their own in any case.
M.D.s might disagree with what Perry does and may be mystified as to why it seems to work so often, but no one has accused him of avarice or self-promotion. He is loath to discuss the work he does with athletes, and he has asked the athletes to be similarly reticent—although clearly he is proud of his profession. But as hurdler Dedy Cooper says, "Everybody talks about Dr. Perry. Everybody. The first thing athletes ask at a meet is, 'Is Dr. Perry here?' If he's not, some won't compete. Other doctors tell you, 'Rest.' Dr. Perry fixes you up; he teaches you how to take care of yourself. We want him."