I’m still not sure. When it was my turn to decide I voted for acquittal. Here is what happened. You can decide.

This week the author of the Swim-Vortex Facebook page, Craig Lord, reported the following:

“FINA Bureau will be asked by President Husain Al-Musallam to discuss and vote on stripping Dr. Lothar Kipke of the award he received from the international federation and global regulator of aquatics back in the 1980s as a member of the FINA Medical Commission and a key protagonist in the Sporting Crime of the 20th Century.

Kipke, now 92, tub-thumped for clean sport one side of the Berlin Wall but on the other was to be found ramming needles full of steroids in the backsides of young girls as part of State Research Plan 14:25.

Better late than never. The world of water and well beyond is watching.”

For readers who want to read Craig Lord’s full report, here is the link.

Hail The Day When The Criminal Kipke Is A Member Of The FINA Family No More At The Dawn Of Hope On Healing & Reconciliation – StateOfSwimming

In the 1980’s, when East German Dr. Kipke was in the process of almost destroying the sport, in the name of state glory, I got involved in the fringes of East German swimming. I was looking to employ a swim coach in New Zealand. I read in the Dominion newspaper that an East German national coach, Major Mike Regner, had escaped from East Germany and was looking for a coaching position in the west. It took some time to track him down but eventually the German Embassy in Australia provided his phone number.

We had a long chat. Mike was a national coach of the East German women’s team with special responsibility for their high-altitude training program. Our conversation quickly confirmed he certainly knew what he was talking about when it came to swimming. For example, he was well aware of Lydiard’s training principles. And amazingly he offered the information that Arch Jelley was applying similar methods to the coaching of Walker, Dixon and Quax. I explained that his information about Dixon and Quax was a little exaggerated. I could not help but think how many New Zealand coaches would know the training principles of an East German coach and three of his or her star pupils. I was impressed.  

Of course, we also discussed drugs. I was aware that if Mike came to New Zealand, the press, TVNZ, Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) and my employer would be most concerned about Mike’s involvement in East German’s drug programme. Mike was very open about what was going on behind the Berlin Wall. He said his diary recorded every visit of elite swimmers to the medical centre for their steroid shot.

I asked the obvious questions. “Mike why didn’t you refuse to take part? What did you do to stop it happening? No one was better placed than you. Why didn’t you use that power to save abused female swimmers?”

This was his reply. “David, I am a Major who has deserted from the East German army. I am a national coach who has deserted from the state team.  I have caused enormous bad press to my country. I have a wife and young son. I forced them to come with me and crawl through two barbed wire fences, patrolled by armed guards who would shoot us instantly. Can any coach in any western country say they have done as much as I did to get out of the poison that is East German sport than I have?”

I realised Mike was using the Nuremberg defence. “I was under orders, I had to do it,” was the frequent claim of Hitler’s lieutenants at their trial. But Mike and his family had got out. The risk to his family and himself had been extreme. Certainly, far more acute than me sitting in New Zealand passing judgement from 12,000 miles away. I accepted Mike’s argument.

My next question was, why New Zealand? Surely Mike’s record would get him a position in Europe or the United States. Mike disagreed. New Zealand was exactly what he wanted. A high-profile position in Europe or the United States would encourage East Germany to kidnap or kill him and his family. New Zealand was a peaceful western country, well away from the “mainstream”. New Zealand offered safety.

And so, I employed Mike and brought him and his family to New Zealand. Sadly, I got more benefit from his time here than anyone. His knowledge and ideas on coaching were stunning. And of course, I’m not talking about drugs. The legitimate world of possibilities he opened to my knowledge of swim coaching was beyond belief. Mike was a Jelley, a Lydiard, a Tonks, a Robertson, an Allan.

SNZ of course wanted nothing to do with him. They preferred to live in their Pelorus House cave oblivious to another wasted opportunity. The press and television too found it difficult to get past the question of drugs. They say prophets are seldom recognised at home. New Zealand was not Mike’s home. But he was a prophet that the establishment, as so often happens in New Zealand, scorned.

I did not. My coaching benefitted from my acceptance. However, I may have been wrong. Perhaps the circumstances never justify the drug abuse that was East German swimming. Or perhaps “let him who is without sin amongst you cast the first stone.” I do not know. What would you have done? Guilty or not guilty.

0 responses. Leave a Reply

  1. Swimwatch


    Be the first to leave a comment!

Comments are closed.