"Anybody who tells me that removing athletes' blood or giving someone else's blood for transfusion into an athlete to try to improve performance is an O.K. thing to do—he's just nuts."
So said Dr. Irving Dardik, the director of a U.S. Olympic Committee investigative panel, after it was disclosed last week that seven members of the U.S. Olympic cycling team, including four medalists, one a champion, had "blood boosted" at the Los Angeles Games, and that another, Danny Van Haute, had done so at the July 5-7 trials.
They had received transfusions in the belief, or hope, that the increased red-blood-cell count would get more oxygen to their tiring muscles during their races. Van Haute had been reinfused with his own blood, which had been withdrawn several weeks earlier and had been held in cold storage. At the Games, the other seven had received the blood of relatives and others with similar blood types, a procedure that carries significantly greater health risks than reinfusion (see box, page 17), and theretofore had rarely been used in an attempt to win sporting events.
Steve Hegg, who won a gold medal and a silver, received blood, as did silver medalists Rebecca Twigg, Pat McDonough and Leonard Nitz, who also won a bronze. John Beckman, Mark Whitehead and Brent Emery were identified as the others. The rest of the 24-member team had been offered transfusions and had turned them down.
"It's real bad for cycling, and it's real bad for all of us who didn't participate," said Connie Carpenter, a "completely antisubstance" rider who edged Twigg by millimeters to win the women's road race. "The blame falls directly on the coaching staff, and from everything I've heard since, I'm surprised nobody died." Pursuiter Dave Grylls had also refused blood boosting, and he, too, was quoted as saying there had been pressure from the coaching staff.
The staff they blame is headed by Edward Borysewicz, known to the cycling world as Eddy B. The transfusions were suggested by him. by staff members or by the physician who oversaw the boosting, Dr. Herman Falsetti, a professor of cardiology at the University of Iowa. Last weekend Col. F. Don Miller, executive director of the USOC, said that the "responsible individuals should be held accountable."
The cycling scandal was not the only bad sports news of the week. It was revealed that 86 U.S. athletes in other sports had flunked USOC-administered drug tests in the nine months before the L.A. Games. The tests had turned up anabolic steroids, stimulants and testosterone; two athletes who had made the U.S. team were dropped. And at Vanderbilt and Clemson, a steroid scandal was breaking (page 18).
Before L.A., the U.S. hadn't won a medal in Olympic cycling since 1912, a very long drought. Borysewicz, an assistant on the 1976 Polish Olympic team, defected to the West that year. Shortly after settling in the U.S., he showed up at the North Jersey Bicycle Club and became acquainted with Olympic cycling team manager Mike Fraysse, a member of a venerable cycling family, who lobbied to help Borysewicz become coach of the national team in 1977. In 1979 Fraysse became president of the U.S. Cycling Federation, a post his grandfather held from 1929 to '33. He served until 1982 and became a vice-president of the organization last fall.
At first Borysewicz was seen as a retiring sort, but before long he was perceived to be distinctly brusque. By the time the U.S. swept all but one event at the 1983 Pan Am Games, he was regarded as domineering. But on ABC television last August, Eddy B.'s riders made history. His team won nine Olympic medals, including four golds. Borysewicz was named Man of the Year by the Cycling Federation's official publication. Cycling U.S.A. It had been a very good year for Eddy B. in 1984, but as 1985 began, things were unraveling.
Rob Lea had been elected president of the federation on Oct. 12, but had resigned on Dec. 19. USCF secretary Deke Smith resigned two days later. On Jan. 2, Lea sent a letter to members of the board, saying he had quit because an in-house investigation disclosed "that our coaching staff blood-doped some of our Olympic team riders in order to enhance their performance at the Olympic Games."