By CAMERON BELL – May 7th, 2000
OLYMPIC champion Michelle Ford, who was denied two Gold medals by drug-tainted East Germans at Moscow in 1980, predicts drugs will emerge as the major issue of the Sydney Games.
Ford missed out on gold medals in the 400m freestyle and 200m butterfly at Moscow, but managed to win gold in the 800m freestyle.
“The IOC have to show they are serious about stopping drug cheats in their tracks,” Ford said on the eve of the Australian swimming selection trials, the most important event for Australian swimmers this year outside the Olympics.
“Everyone knows the current drug testing procedures aren’t good enough because there are so many things athletes are taking these days that urine samples can’t detect.
“And we shouldn’t be so naive as to think that only the overseas athletes are taking drugs …because it’s sure to be happening right in our own backyard.
“As far as I’m concerned, the drugs issue will be the biggest issue to come out of the whole Olympic Games.
“While doping might not be as controlled as it was in the old East German days, we can’t be stupid enough to think it’s not around. With so much pressure on to perform in all sports, drugs are an issue.”
Ford was a 13-year-old at the Montreal Olympics and remembers entering the dressing-room with fellow teenager Tracey Wickham and hardly believing her eyes.
“The East German women were huge and all of them had extra body hair and spoke with a deep voice. You just knew they were all on drugs but there was nothing you could do about it,” Ford said.
“Even when I won gold in Moscow, you’d line up on the blocks and look across to see someone 10 sizes bigger than you.
“It’s time that blood tests were taken and hopefully approval will be granted to carry out these tests.
“Blood testing is certainly on the cards and it’s probably the only way to catch and deter cheats.”
After living in Switzerland for 10 years, Ford now lives at Cronulla with husband Christian Eriksson and children Michael and Bo.
She originally moved to the Swiss city of Lausanne to work for the IOC and has returned to work for SOCOG, where she looks after athlete liaison.
Ford knows she should have returned from Moscow with three gold medals.
She won bronze in the 200m butterfly but finished fourth in the 400m freestyle.
The only women who beat her in Moscow were East Germans whose names all appear in Stasi files, collated by the East German secret police and accepted as court evidence.
“I’ve got a gold medal so I’m happy. Sure it would have been nice to have three but I proved you can still beat the cheats with hard work,” she said.
“You’ve just got to be happy with yourself more than anything. There was no way I would have taken drugs in any case because, besides knowing it was wrong, the drugs drastically affect your physical condition.
“Even now, I’ve heard of some of the East German women giving birth to children who have all sorts of problems.”