On This Day in Olympic History, 19 November

On This Day, 19 November

  • 320 Olympians were born, …
  • 57 Olympians died, …
  • 1 Olympic event was held
  • The Olympic event that was “held” on this day was actually the 1904 Olympic football tournament, which was contested from 16-23 November, although no actual match took place on this day. Our database works like that! Matches were held on 16, 17, and 18 November, and then on 23 November.
  • Luigi Beccali, Italian middle-distance running great, who ran the 1,500 metres at 3 Olympics (1928-36), and won the gold medal in 1932 and bronze medal in 1936, was born on this day in 1907.
  • Peter Gabbett, Britain’s greatest decathlete prior to Daley Thompson, who competed at the 1972 Olympics, but did not finish, was born on this day in 1941.
  • Dianne de Leeuw, an American who was among the first Olympians to participate in the athletic diaspora by choosing to compete for another nation, was born on this day in 1955. De Leeuw had dual citizenship and chose to compete for the Netherlands in figure skating at the 1976 Winter Olympics, winning a silver medal behind Dorothy Hamill.
  • Gail Devers, the greatest American female high hurdler, was born on this day in 1966. Devers competed in five Olympics, but never managed a gold medal in the 100 hurdles, which was considered her best event. She did, however, win back-to-back gold medals in the 100 metres in 1992-96.
  • Kerri Strug, famous in the US for taking her final vault in the 1996 team gymnastics competition, was born on this day in 1977. Strug took that vault on a severely injured ankle, feeling she needed to post a high score to help the US women win the gold medal. It later turned out that she did not have to take the vault for the US to win gold.
  • Mahé Drysdale, New Zealand single sculls rowing champion, was born on this day in 1978. Drysdale was gold medalist in the single sculls in 2012 after winning a bronze at Beijing in 2008. Drysdale was a five-time World Champion in single sculls, winning in 2005-07, 2009, and 2011.
  • Dayron Robles, Cuban high hurdler who won the 110 hurdle gold medal at the Beijing Olympics, was born on this day in 1986.
  • Simpson Foulis, a Scottish emigré who competed in golf at the 1904 Olympics, died on this day in 1951. Foulis’s brother, Jim Foulis, won the second US Open championship in 1896 at Shinnecock Hills.
  • Taisiya Chenchik, Soviet high jumper who won a bronze medal in the event at Tokyo in 1964, died on this day in 2013.
Mal Whitfield
Mal Whitfield
  • And sadly, we must mention the death late last night (on the 18th) of American Mal Whitfield, who won three gold medals at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics, including golds in the 800 both years, and added a bronze medal in the 400 in 1948. Whitfield later had a long career in the US foreign service. His daughter, Fredricka Whitfield, has been a long-time news anchor for CNN.

“Only the dead have seen the end of War”

Some of you may recognize the quote that headlines this posting as being from the Greek philosopher Plato. Plato believed that one of the reasons that the Olympic Games existed in ancient times was for the training of both body and soul that would be required in times of military conflict. Whether he is right or wrong is a matter for personal conscience but one thing that cannot be denied is that, since the advent of the modern Games, many Olympians have fought and died as soldiers or have been killed as part of a myriad of conflicts across the globe.

On the day which Americans call Veterans Day and which other countries call Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, we can indeed remember them.
http://www.sports-reference.com currently lists 752 casualties of war on our website.

The full list is, sadly, too long to list here but is available at http://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/friv/lists.cgi?id=65

However we can list a dozen representative examples.

Ron Zinn (USA)
Although assumed deceased, technically still listed as MIA (missing in action) in Vietnam.

Janusz Zalewski (Poland)
Member of the Polish resistance. Injured during the 1944 Warsaw Rising, he was murdered along with fellow hospital patients and medical staff during Nazi reprisals.

Teófilo Yldefonso (Phillipines)
Killed in concentration camp Capas, following the Bataan Death March.

Tony Wilding (New Zealand)
Joined the British army and was leading an armoured car unit when he was killed at Aubers Ridge during the Battle of Neuve-Chapelle.

Silvano Abbà (Italy)
Modern Pentathlon
Abbà was a military man, who led the Italian Savoy Cavalry squadron in August 1942 at the Battle of Izbushensky near Volgograd. Abbà was killed, along with 700 other riders who were slaughtered by the Soviets. It is considered the last cavalry charge in military history.

Werner Seelenbinder (Germany)
Killed by beheading in Brandenburg Prison after years in concentration camps for leading resistance movements against the Nazis.

Birger Wasenius (Finland)
Speed Skating
Killed during the Winter War early in 1940 while fighting for the Finnish army on the islands of Lake Ladoga.

Freddie Tomlins (Great Britain)
Figure Skating
Killed as a RAF crew-member in fight against a German submarine in/over the British Channel.

Henryk Szlązak (Poland)
Killed by an artillery shell during the Warsaw Uprising.

Percival Molson (Canada)
Killed in action when hit by mortar fire while attempting to rescue a fallen friend on the outskirts of Avignon, France.

Stella Agsteribbe (Netherlands)
Killed in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

Five of the members of this team perished in the Holocaust
Five of the members of this team perished in the Holocaust

André Corvington (Haiti)
Killed in action in World War I near Reims whilst serving as a medic in the French army.


The history of drug use, or doping, or PED use (performance-enhancing drugs), in sports is almost as old as the history of sport itself. Doping is the European term for drug use but the term is less often used in the United States. Even the name itself has a history, as it comes from the 19th century, when the term “dop” was used to describe a South African drink which was an extract of cola nuts to which was added xanthines (found in caffeine) and alcohol. The drink was intended to improve endurance and the term “doping” was derived from it.

In the Ancient Olympics, trainers gave athletes various concoctions that they felt would improve their performance. The first physician to be considered a specialist in sports medicine was Galen, who prescribed as follows, “The rear hooves of an Abyssinian ass, ground up, boiled in oil, and flavored with rose hips and rose petals, was the prescription favored to improve performance.”

In the late 1800s, trainers often gave European cyclists strychnine mixed with caffeine and alcohol. Most of the cyclists simply considered them a necessity. A similar potion, strychnine with brandy and egg white, was given to American marathoner, Thomas Hicks, when he was near collapse at the end of the 1904 Olympic marathon in St. Louis, which he went on to win.

Early documentation of sport doping focuses on cycling. The first punishment for doping in cycling goes back to the 19th century, when trainer Choppy Warburton was banned from the sport for suspicions of drugging his riders. Warburton coached Arthur Linton, who won Bordeaux-Paris in 1896, but was suspected of being doped by Warburton during that race.

All of these techniques were used to improve performance and little concern was given to them. It is safe to assume that over the next few decades drug use only increased, but it rarely made the news and there were few problems with its use. But eyebrows were raised at the 1952 Olympic Winter Games when syringes and empty drug vials were found in the speed skater’s locker rooms (speed skaters often train by cycling in the warmer months). Similar detritus was found in the cyclist’s locker rooms at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

It was known that the professional cyclists used drugs freely, mainly stimulants such as amphetamines. In 1924 Henri Pélissier and his brother, Charles, admitted to various doping methods, describing in an interview their use of strychnine, cocaine, chloroform, aspirin, and horse ointments, although they later stated that the writer had exaggerated their claims. By the 1940s Italian campionissimo Fausto Coppi freely admitted to doping, calling it “la bomba,” and said there was no alternative if one hoped to stay competitive.

In 1955 French rider Jean Malléjac collapsed in the Tour de France near the top of Mont Ventoux, and it was attributed to doping. He had been riding wildly and sporadically and fell off his bike with one foot still in his toe clip. He later stated he had been drugged against his will and proclaimed his innocence to his death in 2000.

Roger Rivière, a star of the late 1950s, who was paralyzed after a crash in the 1960 Tour, later admitted to doping during his career, and even said his career-ending accident was possibly due to the use of painkilling drugs which had affected his reflexes and judgment. Ironically, Rivière once commented about the marathon legend of Pheidippides, “Had the soldier from Marathon had access to some kind of restorative product, he would most likely not have died.”

At the 1960 Rome Olympics, Danish cyclist Knut Enemark Jensen collapsed and died during the cycling road race. He was later found to have been given amphetamines (Ronital) and nicotinyl tartrate (a nicotine-type of stimulant). Jensen’s death, however, caused no great call to enforce rules against drug use in sports.

In 1965 Tour superstar Jacques Anquetil admitted during a television interview that he used drugs, stating that it was common at the time, and that a man could not ride Bordeaux-Paris or the grand tours while riding only on water. On 1 June 1965, performance-enhancing drugs were made illegal in France and in July 1966 the Tour authorities began testing the riders for drugs, with Raymond Poulidor the first rider to be tested on 29 July.

The most famous drug-related sports death then occurred at the 1967 Tour de France, when the great British cyclist, Tommy Simpson, collapsed and died while ascending Mont Ventoux. An autopsy revealed he had been heavily dosed with stimulants.

Sports administrators could not continue to avoid the problem. The deaths of Jensen and Simpson alerted the sporting authorities, among them the IOC and the IAAF, to the dangers inherent in drug use in sports. At the 1968 Olympic Winter Games, the IOC tested for drugs for the first time. The first athlete to be disqualified in the Olympics for drug use was Sweden’s Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall. Liljenwall was a modern pentathlete who had helped his team win a bronze medal. Prior to the shooting event he drank a few beers to help steady his nerves. This was commonplace among modern pentathletes in those days, but it cost him and his teammates a bronze medal.

The IOC did not start testing for anabolic steroids until 1972 at the Olympics. Seven athletes were disqualified for doping offenses at the 1972 München Games, with three athletes losing medals – Rick DeMont (USA) in the controversial 400 metre freestyle, after he was found to have a stimulant (ephedrine) in his Marex inhaler that he used for his asthma; Aad van den Hoek (NED), who was found to have taken coramine, a stimulant, which eliminated the Dutch team from the team time trial, after they had placed third; and Bakhaavaa Buidaa, a Mongolian judoka who lost his silver medal when he became the first Olympian to test positive for an anabolic steroid, Dianabol.

Since the advent of drug testing, the major scandals have involved the use of anabolic steroids, blood doping, and erythropoietin (EPO). None of these just came about in the 1980s or 1990s.

Anabolic steroids had been invented in the early 1950s by the American physician, John Ziegler, who developed them to help patients with serious illnesses, including soldiers, although concurrent development by Soviet and German doctors was later revealed. Many of these patients were unable to maintain their body weight, and they essentially wasted away. The anabolic steroids were capable of keeping the patients in what is known as “positive nitrogen balance.” In that state, protein is being added, rather than taken away, from the body’s muscles. It was not long before athletes discovered their usefulness, with weightlifters and weight throwers in track & field known to have started using them in the early 1960s.

Blood doping, also termed blood boosting, blood packing, and induced erythrocythemia, involves the infusion of red blood cells to increase a person’s aerobic capacity. Rumors of blood doping first became rampant when the great Finnish distance runner, Lasse Virén, won both the 5,000 and 10,000 at the 1972 München and 1976 Montréal Olympics. Between Olympics, Virén’s performances were relatively poor – he never won any other major event. While Virén claimed he was simply a master at peaking, his rivals whispered that he was being helped by blood doping. The rumors were never substantiated.

It goes much farther back than that, however, as blood doping was first investigated in 1947 by the American physiologist Pace. He infused 2,000 cc. of whole blood into subjects and noted increases in endurance capacity of as great as 35%. Multiple other studies have also shown increases in aerobic and endurance capacity, although no study used such a massive quantity as Pace’s study. (The normal adult male has a volume of blood of about 6 liters, so Pace was injecting 1/3rd of the patient’s blood volume.)

Most studies now confirm that blood doping increases both aerobic and endurance capacity, if properly administered, but blood doping was originally not considered terribly helpful to athletes, because it was thought adding extra red blood cells to the body increased the viscosity of the blood to a point that the heart could not generate enough output to increase aerobic capacity. This has been shown not to be true in the quantities of normal blood doping.

The first known documented blood doping scandal concerned the 1984 United States Olympic cycling team that admitted to blood doping prior to the Los Angeles Olympics, which was a systematic scheme also involving their coaches. Coincidentally the American cyclists did very well, winning multiple medals and titles, albeit in the absence of the Eastern European riders. Later, at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, after the athletes had left Salt Lake City, discarded blood bags were found at the residence of the Austrian skiers and two Austrian cross-country skiers were disqualified, as well as the team doctor.

Blood doping was somewhat supplanted by the use of erythropoietin (EPO) and its analogues. Erythropoietin is a natural hormone synthesized by the kidneys and which stimulates red blood cell formation. Erythropoietin was first synthesized as a drug in the late 1980s, after the development of recombinant bacterial production, primarily as a method of treating patients with anemia. It has been especially helpful in treating patients with renal failure and on dialysis as a result. Since the kidney produces erythropoietin, kidney failure invariably causes a deficiency of the hormone, and virtually all of these patients are anemic. It is also used in cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, which often causes the body to stop producing red blood cells naturally.

Because it will naturally boost an athlete’s red blood cell mass without the risks of either autologous or heterologous blood doping, which can transmit viral diseases, or cause transfusion reactions, athletes have often used EPO to increase their aerobic capacity. This may also create long-term problems for the athlete as use of the drug may interfere with the body’s natural production of erythropoietin. Early studies also showed that supplements of erythropoietin may increase the risks of blood clots, diabetes and hypertension (high blood pressure).

In the late 1980s and early 1990s the European cycling press investigated a series of startling deaths. At least 10 and perhaps as many as 20 professional cyclists died very suddenly. Most of these athletes were from the Netherlands or Belgium, and most were young, and in extremely good condition as a result of the demands of their sport. While never proven, the rumor was that many of these athletes died as a result of using EPO. EPO increases the amount of red blood cells in the body, but extremely fit aerobic athletes, such as professional cyclists, already have a very high percentage of red blood cells, which is measured by checking a lab value termed the hematocrit. Normal hematocrit values for adult males are in the 38-43 range, while women have a slightly lower value.

Aerobic athletes usually have very high hematocrits naturally, as they have developed their aerobic capacity by training. Their hematocrits are often in the 45-50 range. But by taking EPO, these athletes can artificially raise their hematocrit even higher, often above 50. At hematocrit levels much above 50, the blood becomes very viscous, and may sludge. It is unable to circulate easily and can lead to strokes or heart attacks. This was considered to be the etiology of many of the deaths of the professional cyclists.

And it did not stop with anabolic steroids, blood doping or EPO. After them came designer steroids, the use of pure testosterone, and testosterone/epi-testosterone combinations to avoid detection, human growth hormone or somatotropin (hGH), and on virtually ad nauseum.

And this led to …

  • the state-supported GDR doping system of the 1970s-80s, later revealed by released Stasi documents;
  • the 1983 Pan American Games in Caracas, Venezuela when tight drug testing protocols caught 15 weightlifters;
  • the Chinese system of the late 1980s in which their female distance runners set world records still never approached;
  • Ben Johnson at Seoul in 1988;
  • Marion Jones at Sydney in 2000, though not formally admitted for several years;
  • the Festina Scandal of 1998;
  • Lance Armstrong from 1999-2005 at the Tour de France;
  • the BALCO Scandal in American professional sports around 2000-02;
  • Operación Puerto in professional cycling circa 2006;
  • the Floyd Landis fiasco at the 2006 Tour de France and thereafter;
  • the admissions by Tyler Hamilton, and later Armstrong, about their drug use in cycling,
  • the Russian scandal most fully revealed on Monday, 9 November, by the release of the Pound Report, … and so it goes

The athletes continue to use performance-enhancing drugs, and the scientists, and now governments and legal agencies, continue to pursue them. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

On This Day in Olympic History – 9 November

On this day in Olympic history, …

  • 319 Olympians were born, and …
  • 81 Olympians died
  • The 400-metre running twins, Noel and Christopher Chavasse (GBR), who competed at the 1908 Olympics, were born in 1884. Noel was killed in World War I at Ieper, Belgium.
  • Heywood Edwards (USA), a wrestler at the 1928 Olympics, was born in 1905. Edwards attended the US Naval Academy. He died aboard the USS Reuben James, the first US navy ship to be sunk in the Atlantic during World War II. The USS Heywood L. Edwards would be named in his honour.
  • Viktor Chukarin (URS), the first great male Soviet gymnast, individual all-around champion at the 1952 and 1956 Olympics, was born in 1921. Very old for a gymnast, Chukarin had been a prisoner-of-war during World War II.
  • Alice Coachman (USA) was born in 1923. Coachman won the high jump at the 1948 Olympics, becoming the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal.
  • Sven Hannawald, German ski jumper, was born in 1974. Hannawald won three Olympic ski jumping medals in 1998-2002 including a gold in the 2002 team event, but he is best known as the only ski jumper to win all four events in the Four Hills Tournament (Vierschanzentournee) in the same season, which he did in 2001-02.
  • Pietro Speciale, Italian fencer at the 1908/12/20 Olympics, died on this day in 1945 in Palermo. Speciale won a team foil gold medal in 1920 and an individual foil silver in 1912.
  • Eero Lehtonen (FIN), who won the pentathlon in track & field at the 1920 and 1924 Olympics, and remains the defending champion in the event, as it was never held again, died in 1959. Lehtonen also competed in the long jump and decathlon in 1920 and the 4×400 relay in 1924.
  • Dick Howard (USA), bronze medalist in the 1960 400 metre hurdles, died of a heroin overdose in 1967, shortly after he left prison after serving a 7-year term for drug charges. The silver medalist in that event also died tragically, though Cliff Cushman met his end fighting in Vietnam.
  • Cliff Gray, American bobsledder who won gold medals in the 4-man event in both 1928 and 1932, died on this day in 1969, at least we think he did. The confusion relating to the true identity of Clifford Gray has persisted almost since the day he left the Olympic scene. See the recent book Speed Kings by Andy Bull for a full discussion of Gray/Grey’s identity (even the spelling is confusing), which Bull unearthed with the assistance of Hilary Evans, one of our OlyMADMen.
  • Lewis Luxton (AUS), the son of an IOC Member of the same name, who rowed at the 1932 Olympics for Great Britain, and later also became an IOC Member, that for Australia, died on this day in 1985.

Bill Northam



Full Name,William Herbert “Bill” Northam

Born,28 September 1905 in Torquay; Torbay (GBR)

Died,6 September 1988 in Woollahra; New South Wales (AUS)

Measurements,183 cm / 81 kg


Bill Northam started as a youngster in athletics and then turned to dirt-track car and motorcycling racing. But he excelled in business and became the chairman of the Australian sections of both Johnson & Johnson and Slazenger. He did not take up sailing until he was 46, but he quickly became serious about it. Northam bought some property at The Basin, Pittwater in Sydney, and was taken out for a sail by a neighbor, and became interested. His house looked out over the Barrenjoey Lighthouse, and Northam would eventually name his 5.5 metre boat, which he raced at the Olympics, “Barrenjoey.”

Northam started out in larger 8-metre yachts, racing “Saskia” in England and winning the prestigious Sayonara Cup in 1955 and 1956. He had success racing “Caprice of Huon” in the Sydney-to-Hobart race, and raced “Jazzer” in the Sabre class. In 1962 he served as a member of Frank Packer’s syndicate for “Gretel,” which was the challenger for the America’s Cup.

In 1962 Northam decided to aim for the Olympics and went to the United States, asking naval architect Bill Luders to build him a 5.5 metre craft, the “Barrenjoey.” He made the Australian team for the Tokyo Olympics and marched at the Opening Ceremony alongside his son, Rod, who was a reserve on the rowing team. In the competition, Northam skippered “Barrenjoey” to the gold medal. He was named Australia Yachtsman of the Year, and in 1966 was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In 1976 Northam was knighted for services to the community.



1964 Sailing,5.5 metres,Barrenjoey,1,Gold


On This Day in Olympic History – 2 November

Today in Olympic History, …

  • 291 Olympians were born and …
  • 65 Olympians died
  • Marion Jones (USA) was born in 1879, but not the one you think, but rather Marion Jones the tennis player who won two bronze medals at the 1900 Olympics, in singles and mixed doubles, making her the first American woman to win Olympic medals.
  • Victor Galíndez (ARG) was born in 1948. Galíndez was a boxer at the 1968 Olympics, without much success, although he had won a silver medal at the 1967 Pan American Games. He had much more success as a professional, winning and holding the WBA light-heavyweight title from 1974-1978 and again briefly in 1979.
  • Bruce Baumgartner (USA) was born in 1960. Baumgartner is the most successful super-heavyweight wrestler in US history, winning four Olympic medals, including golds in 1984 and 1992. Baumgartner won three World Championships, three Pan American Games gold medals, had eight World Cup wins, and was a 17-time US Champion.
  • Noah Ngeny (KEN) was born in 1978. Ngeny was a middle-distance runner who won the gold medal in the 1,500 metres at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He was a silver medalist in the 1,500 at the 1999 World Championships and set one world record, running 2:11.96 in September 1999 for the 1,000 metres.
  • Gillian Apps (CAN), descended from hockey royalty, was born in 1983. Apps won three gold medals in ice hockey for Canada at the 2006, 2010, and 2014 Winter Olympics. Her grandfather, Syl Apps, is considered one of Canada’s greatest ever hockey players, is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, and also competed at the Olympics. He placed sixth in the pole vault at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Gillian Apps’ father, Syl Apps, Jr., also played in the National Hockey League, for 10 seasons with the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Los Angeles Kings.
  • Hélène, Countess de Portales (SUI) died on this day in 1945. A crew member on her husband’s yacht, Lerina, at the 1900 Olympics, she was the first female Olympic competitor, and the first female Olympic medalist, winning a gold and silver medal.
  • Two renowned American track & field champions died on this day. Ted Meredith died in 1957. He won gold medals in the 800 metres and the 4×400 metre relay at the 1912 Olympics. Milt Campbell died in 2012. Campbell won a gold medal in the decathlon at the 1956 Olympics, after winning a decathlon silver in 1952.
  • Vasily Rudenkov (URS) died in 1982. Rudenkov was the gold medalist in the hammer throw at the 1960 Olympics.
  • No Olympic events were held on this day, however, Olympic competition has been held in November. At the 1904 St. Louis Olympics, some football (soccer) matches were contested in November, the Games ending on 23 November. At the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, the Games opened on 22 November, to match the Southern Hemisphere summer. There is no truth to the rumor that discus and hammer throwers had to spin in a reverse direction during those Games.
  • And the 1st and 2nd Zappas Olympic Games were held in November in Athinai in 1859 and 1870. The Zappas Olympic Games were early forerunners of the Modern Olympic Games, and among many attempts of revival of the Ancient Olympics.
  • And in November 1892, Pierre de Coubertin held the conference at the Sorbonne at which the delegates re-instituted the Olympic Idea, and formed the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
  • And on 25 November 1979, the two-China problem was finally resolved by the IOC when it formally recognized the Republic of China, and on 26 November, the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee was formally recognized under that name.
  • And on 24 November 1998, Salt Lake City television station KTVX reveals that the Salt Lake Bid Committee had been paying tuition and expenses for the daughter of an IOC Member. Paraphrasing Boston Globe sportswriter Bob Ryan, “the excrement was about to hit the cooling device.”