chapter  5
Manufactured Dope: How the 1984 US Olympic Cycling Team Rewrote the Rules on Drugs in Sports
ByJohn Gleaves
Pages 19

At a casual glance, the February 1985 cover of Rolling Stone appeared like any other. It featured a flattering portrait of rocker Mick Jagger alongside by-lines for an essay from Tom Wolff and an interview with Chaka Khan. But in the bottom left, the magazine known for music, politics and popular culture veered into the realm of sports. With the capitalised tagline ‘AN OLYMPIC SCANDAL: How U.S. medalists were doped to win’, Rolling Stone unwittingly entered a world that had just been turned upside down. The article by Richard Ben Cramer titled ‘Olympic Cheating: The Inside Story of Illicit Doping and the U.S. Cycling Team’ had everything it needed to become an instant sensation: a former Soviet-bloc coach who spoke with a thick Polish accent, secret meetings in shady run-down motel rooms, a foreign sport that few Americans understood and Olympic heroes suddenly exposed as frauds. The nation, still glowing from the triumphant 1984 Los Angeles Games, quickly took interest. Revealing that a number of US cyclists had used blood transfusions, a procedure where an athlete transfuses blood right before an event to improve their endurance, Cramer accused the athletes of ‘illicit doping’ and violating the policy of the US Olympic Committee (USOC), which stated that such practices were ‘unacceptable under any conditions’.1 Though Sports Illustrated had reported the story three weeks earlier, Cramer’s piece reached a mainstream audience,


helping to define the event for a nation and cementing a tarnished legacy for those involved.2