Babashoff To Release Book On Conquering East German Doping

Aligning with the ever-present narrative of doping within worldwide sports, including multi-champion tennis player Maria Sharapova announcing this week she recently tested positively for a banned substance, a new book will soon be released on the subject as it related to swimming in the 1970s.

Eight-time American Olympic medalist, swimmer Shirley Babashoff, coauthored “Making Waves”, a book based on Babashoff’s experience with cheating at the 1976 Olympic Games via the since-confirmed systematic doping of the East German (DDR) women’s swimming team.

At the height of her swimming career that primarily spanned the 1970s, Babashoff set 37 national records, as well as 6 world records, including the 200m freestyle world record set when she was just 15 years old. Headed into the 1976 Olympic Games, Babashoff was a poster girl for Team USA, including being on the cover of Sports Illustrated and drawing comparisons as a ‘female Mark Spitz’.

However, Babashoff writes how things turned sour as she publicly began questioning the increasingly masculine characteristics of the East German women’s swimming team, suspecting steroid abuse that wasn’t confirmed until some 30 years later.

For her outspokenness at the time, Babshoff earned the nickname “Surly Shirley” by the media, but still went on to claim 4 silver medals, as well as a relay gold in the 400 freestyle relay at the 1976 Games.

“Making Waves: My Journey to Winning Olympic Gold and Defeating the East German Doping Program” is scheduled to be released on July 12th this year.

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I remember the sports “journalists” having a field day mocking Babshoff – it was very sad. What did the East German coach say when questioned about the deep voices of his women? “We didn’t come to sing?”


Shirley and her teammates beating the East Germans in the 4 X 100 free relay in 1976 was the aquatic equivalent to “The Miracle on Ice.” One of the all time greats rising to the occasion.

cynthia curran

True. Shirley was a hard worker. We were team meets before she went to Mission Viejo. She was a lot faster than me but she worked her butt off and deserved her success. It was always ashamed that the Germans cheated but their County system pushed it on the girls since it was a communist country. and the East German government wanted glory.


I think Caitlin has retaken the 1970s sports retrospect & shone a light. What made a man ? What made a woman? The DDR was ahead of its time – men trapped in girls’ bodies . Women breaking out from stereotype chromosome categories. Why could not women have deep voices ? Why could a woman not have a penis?

I have rethought it all.If someone , even a 4 year old , insists they are another , who am I to judge ? Let the Freedom Train ride. Why should medals be above people’s personal wishes?


I do not believe that the East German women fully understood what was being done to them – that is very different than Caitlin. I also believe that they were under a lot of pressure to take whatever medications the medical staff directed. If you think that is “ahead of its time” you are scaring me.

cynthia curran

True. They either wanted the East German government to help their families get a better apartment or were afraid the government would punish them.


I also seriously think the west could have beaten the DDR in the mid 70s if their girls were allowed to have more muscles & allowed themselves to be more serious & as they outgrew puberty had better nutrition. I remember a coach lamenting that he had the girls in 75 but they spent their time in Cali painting their nails. There were non DDR freestyle world champs e.g. Rotthammer & Calligari in 73 Turrell in 75 but the DDR had the form strokes smashed. They were doing flexibility & turns ( Anje Stille’s back start was outstanding for power & flex). It was not all just PEDS. They invented lactate testing /racer back lycra swimwear . When the west… Read more »

Cynthia mae Curran

Well, Shirley did double workouts more than most folks. I think she got into some weight training with Mark S at Mission Viejo. Shriley was in an era where you could swim the 100 to 800 at world class level. After that, most swimmers until Katie Ledecky were either sprinters, 50 and 100, middle distance 200, 400 or middle and distance 400 and 800.


30 years prior to that their countrymen were eliminating ppl en masse. Families with names like Babashoff were annihilated on the Russian steppes & survivors thrown out into the snow. Now they were only cheating a few out of bits of metal. It was progress man! If we are going to give out medals & honours I can think of poor Bruce bursting out of that athletics outfit in all the wrong places. if some DDR guy had have beaten him , he may have been able to find his true self sooner . Not easy on a Wheaties packet. Then we would not have had to deal with the Kardashians. I blame OJ for that though. Poor Bruce. He… Read more »

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