12 Parts Per Million
Doping in athletics is nothing new. Cases regularly make headlines calling attention to issues of fair play and how to keep sport clean.
In 1972, the International Olympic Committee attempted to level the playing field for competitors by introducing drug testing at the Games.
That same year, Rick DeMont, a US swimming phenom from Southern California, won the 400-meter freestyle event at the Munich Olympics. Less than 48 hours later, legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell announced the shocking news that Olympic officials had stripped DeMont of his gold medal and excluded him from further competition after a post-race doping test revealed trace amounts – 12 parts per million – of ephedrine, a banned substance, and the main ingredient in an asthma prescription Rick had properly disclosed weeks earlier on his Olympic medical intake form. He and his family unsuccessfully appealed the International Olympic Committee’s decision and Rick went home heartbroken.
Nearly 25 years later, two experts on the topic of performance enhancing drugs — author and sport psychologist, Dr. Steven Ungerleider, and attorney, David Ulich — examine Rick’s case and uncover serious procedural shortcomings on behalf of the USOC doctors and their processing of the athletes leading up to the Games, raising the question of who was ultimately responsible for protecting the young swimmer.
As their investigation deepens, a story of inadequate medical supervision by US Olympic team doctors, responsible for clearing athletes for competition, unfolds. In response, Ungerleider and Ulich file a lawsuit, forcing the doctors to be questioned under oath. The depositions expose errors, lies, insufficient controls, and individual negligence.
In the end, the United States Olympic Committee reinstates Rick DeMont’s standing, but the International Olympic Committee refuses to return his gold medal.
Fifty years on from Rick’s Olympic win, and three decades after the IOC allowed Therapeutic Use Exemptions for athletes with health conditions to take otherwise banned medications, isn’t it time for Rick to get his medal back?