ArhivaAugust 2013

The true picture of sport – The death of Birgit Dressel


Over twenty years ago, in April 1987, a twenty-six year-old heptathlete, Birgit Dressel, died in West Germany. An investigation was opened at the request of her parents. The findings of the criminal investigator and the medical investigating committee in charge of establishing the cause of death stripped away the veil of deceit with which the sports officials and politicians misled the domestic and international publics. The truth came to light: just as with the Eastern European countries of “real socialism“, the countries of the capitalist West created their own sports industry of death that would mutilate and kill thousands of young people. For the first time in the history of sport the world had the chance to gain a detailed insight into the “documents of horror“ (“Der Spiegel“) that had been, in all places where “world-class sport“ is nurtured, carefully hidden from the public gaze. (1)

The story of the tragic death of Birgit Dressel is a warning to young people carried away by dreams of “athletic fame“, to parents, doctors, teachers of physical education and all those who, as victims of these illusion of “world-class sport“, can contribute, by their idolatrous relation to the mania over record-breaking and the blind promotion of the idea that “sport is the best ambassador“, to the development of increasingly cruel mechanisms for the destruction of young people in sport. The death of Birgit Dressel clearly showed that the road to “optimal results“ had become the road to self-destruction. Birgit died in April of 1987, but her death is still present as it reflects the fate of an increasing number of young people who have become the victims of “world-class sport“. At the same time, the epilogue to her death indicates the organic link between the sports mafia and politics: nobody was punished, nobody was held accountable. The murderers in white uniforms, protected by those who gave them orders from the world of politics and capital, continued their criminal activity. The desperate cry of Birgit’s mother: “They did not try to help my daughter, they finished her off!“most dramatically speaks to the true nature of contemporary sports medicine. An even greater irony is that, immediately after Birgit’s death, Willi Daume, then the President of the National Olympic Committee of West Germany and one of the heads of the international sports mafia, nominated Armin Klümper, the man who developed the doping mechanisms in West Germany to monstrous proportions and who was directly responsible for Birgit’s death, as the Olympic team physician! (2)

Daily doses of tablets taken by athletes are proof that medication has become indispensable in achieving victories and breaking records: they start with harmless pills, only to continue with real medicines, usually against inflammation and pain, which are always given by prescription. In the end, man becomes the slave of devastating, legally prescribed, doping drugs. “Birgit is the victim of the pharmaceutical industry!“ – said Birgit’s father after her death. International competitions are regularly visited by international drug peddlers, many of whom carry a doctor’s title along with their sample cases full of the newly developed products of the doping industry. They come to recruit the young. The practice is tacitly accepted by sports associations. In such a state of affairs, the struggle against doping is doomed to failure.

The tragic death of Birgit Dressel forced people like Willi Daume to admit: “I dread to think that athletes, for example, take anabolic to increase muscle mass, while in a number of countries the use of anabolic steroids in livestock farming is forbidden.“ In spite of that, the main authorities on sports medicine in the West continue to recommend anabolic to all those who want to become muscular “macho men“ and “Amazons“ in order to achieve “optimum results“.

Nineteen eighty-six was a successful year for Birgit Dressel. She managed to move up from 33rd to be ranked no. 6 in the world. She was preparing for the light athletics world championship in Rome (September 1987) and for the Olympic Games in Seoul. She had to remain in good shape at all cost. Birgit did not want to live forever in her little attic flat. She was determined to do everything necessary to set a record that would bring her money and fame and a peaceful retirement. Others had managed, why couldn’t she?

Every day, from her well-equipped medicine cabinet, Birgit would take nine pills on average and wash them down with an ampoule of some liquid med. The investigation found that she had used up to 101 different medications! Among them vitamins B1, B12 and C; meds containing copper, magnesium, and pills claimed by the manufacturer to treat arteriosclerosis, swelling of the legs, allergies, osteoporosis, inflammation of the intestines, weak heart, arterial cramps, swelling… Their names are the products of pure fantasy: “Pascovenol“, “Frubiase“, “Oxypangam’, “Dreisafer“… Birgit also used to drink “Megagrisevit“, an anabolic listed as a forbidden doping substance. She managed to obtain it “anonymously“, through the mail. (It would turn out later that the “anonymous“ sellers were the top level athletic coaches, who obtained these medications on the black market and sold them with an important mark-up, even to their own “protégés“!) This medication is prescribed to people suffering from serious diseases, especially to cancer patients during the final stage of their illness. Dressler used to drink it on a daily basis in order to get muscle gain. She became increasingly masculine. This, however, did not keep her from regularly dosing with “Megagrisevit“, a steroid sold with the warning that it is a sexual hormone used to help the transformation of a feminine into a masculine body. Since 1986, Dressel had been using the anabolic “Stromba“, with similar side effects.

Birgit’s doctor and unquestioned “health advisor“ was a sports medicine professor, a graduated radiologist (!), Armin Klümper, who was recognized as the “top authority“ (“Ober-Guru“) in West German sports medicine. His “Special Clinic for Sports Traumatology“ near Freiburg is the “haven“ for Germany’s ”top athletes“. In the 1990s, the average number of “top“ West German athletes who annually received “treatment“ in his “special clinic“ was 2,400, or 70% of all German athletes. For decathlon competitor Kurt Bendlin, Klümper is the “most important person in West German sport“. According to Dietmar Mögenburg, Olympic champion in men’s high jump, Klümper is a “miracle worker“. Some world champions openly admit that Armin Klümper should be credited for their medals. The extent to which athletes are willing to submit to monster-doctors, who treat them like laboratory rats, can be seen in the case of “Schalke“ football player Wolfgang Patzke, who allowed Klümper to inject his back with seventy “cocktails“ within a period of twenty days, despite the fact that, in his own words, after each shot he got “a sick feeling“.

Birgit Dressel was not so lucky, nor did she have a true mentor. She blindly trusted the “miracle worker” and regularly visited his clinic. She last saw him on 24 February 1987. On that occasion the “Injection Guru” gave her a shot containing 15 different medicines, along with 12 additional capsules. On the same day, Klümper gave his “patient” a substance called “NeyDop“, containing a mixture of “standardized macromolecules of soluble organic lysates” obtained from the cerebral cortex, midbrain, hindbrain and placenta. The manufacturer recommends the use of this medication only for the treatment of paralysis agitans and severe brain damage caused by syphilis and epilepsy. Birgit certainly did not suffer from these conditions. This “cytoplasmic therapy with cell injections“ or, in ordinary language, a therapy using fresh cells in a conserved form, is one of Klümper’s specialties. As long ago as 1985, Klümper allowed Dressel to inject herself with fresh cells despite many previous warnings by a number of colleagues about possible negative effects on the immune system. (This was found out later to be one of the main causes of Birgit’s death). Early in August 1987, several months after Birgit’s death, the West German Ministry of Health prohibited the use of this medication. On the same day, Klümper injected Dressel’s painful lower back with “Discus Compositum“, a mixture containing 37 different substances. Among those were vitamins, zinc, silver, calcium-phosphate, even sulphur. In addition, Klümper  “treated“ Dressel’s ischialgia with “Cefossin, Cefak”, a drug containing gold, with negative side effects, that was found during the autopsy.

Over the course of her career, Klümper gave Dressler over 400 “special“ injections and recommended the use of a large number of medications, among which were those with severe effects on the organs. As with many “top athletes“, Dressel was convinced that her body was capable of easily coping with anything injected into it. Birgit’s mother Lisa, who used to play volleyball, warned Brigit a number of times about the possible consequences of medications. Brigit’s response was typical: “Mom, I need them. Everyone takes them. It’s nothing at all. Decathletes take twice as many.“

According to the report by the “miracle worker“ Armin Klümper (dated 24 February), Birgit Dressel was “healthy to the highest degree” and “at the peak of fitness”. After the autopsy and according to the medical records, the official report revealed that, since 1981, Dressel had been suffering from ever-recurrent hip pain, lateral bending of the spinal column, damage to the disks and fusion of the vertebrae, displacement of the pelvis by two centimeters, degeneration of both kneecaps and fallen arches. In addition, her body was “extremely susceptible to infections”, and she suffered from occasional high blood pressure. As a result of constant straining, her heart muscle contained a number of connective tissues instead of muscle tissues. The “healthy to the highest degree” Birgit Dressel, according to Klümper’s statement in the Police Investigation, was in truth a chronically ill girl, whose body was overloaded with hundreds of drugs. Sport has made a cripple of her long before her death, destroying her joints and prematurely ruining her internal organs.

All that was the consequence of “stereotypical extreme exertion“, as this torture is called in sports science. Within seconds, the lower back is hit by the entire kinetic energy of the weight of the body. The simulation apparatus showed that during a career the “successful” heptathlete must endure between 200 000 and 300 000 instances of extreme physical pressure, which even the strongest woman cannot achieve. Wildor Hollmann, a sports physician and professor from Cologne, claims that “there is no job that even remotely approaches the world-class sport in its adverse effects on the body”. Thus, for example, when practicing on the rings, a gymnast must endure a pressure on his wrists in excess of five times his bodyweight; in a quickly taken penalty kick the ball hits with the strength of a 150kg shot; skiers expose their knees to a pressure higher than that endured by astronauts at lift-off of a rocket; in sports requiring endurance, the heart becomes three times its normal size, it beats arhythmically and only 35 times per minute. Professor Hollman thinks that athletes, due to intense training and increased practice time, have reached their “biological limits”. Fatigue, disease and organ failure are inevitable consequences of such trends. It is fair to say that “top athletes“ are becoming a “bunch of sports cripples and premature invalids” – as the “Der Spiegel“ journalists claim.

Not so long ago, Bertolt Brecht said that “great sport begins at the point it ceases to be healthy“. Former rhythmic gymnast Herta Löwenberg wrote in her diary: “Sport is death”. The medical journal “Ärztliche Praxis” concludes that “high-level sport has nothing to do with health“. An increasing number of doctors are facing sport and illness. Every second orthopedist lives off the injuries suffered in sport.

It is 8 April 1987. The beginning of the end. Birgit sets out to her last practice. Shot-put. She suddenly feels a sharp pain in her lower back extending to her pelvis. The pain is familiar to her. Since the beginning of the year, she has twice stopped a practice for the same reason. Dressel and her coach conclude that it was a severe muscle strain. The same afternoon, they visited the orthopedist, Dr. A (the texts dealing with this case do not mention doctors’ names, using single letters instead!), with a good reputation among the athletes. He gave her two or three milliliters of “Xylonest” as a local anesthetic, then “Voltaren”, commonly administered for the treatment of rheumatism. About 6pm, Dr. A used his syringe again, this time at the sports centre. Since Dressel continued to feel pain, Dr. A gave her “Myo-Melcain”, a combination of a local anesthetic and honey.

The next day in the afternoon, Birgit visited Dr. A again. Her condition had deteriorated. Her leg and butt had become extremely sensitive to touch and cold. After an x-ray examination, instead of honey, Dr. A injected “Voltaren” and then “Baralgin”. Both medicines are considered “strong pain-relievers”. For use at home, Dr. A gave her “Godamed” and “Tranquase-5” tablets, as well as “Optipyrin” suppositories. They contain, among other ingredients, tranquilizers and codeine, an opiate like morphine. In spite of warnings by independent experts, such medications are widely used in Germany. Doctors believe in the so-called shotgun effect, while patients have a silly belief that “more medications work more”. This belief is especially widespread among athletes. Birgit Dressel also believed that, and it cost her life.

At home, according to reports from the official investigation, Dressel had between 10 and 15 tablets of “Godamed“ in her system. The same afternoon, a neurologist, Dr. B, visited her along with Dr. A and diagnosed her with “lumbago without neurological disorders”, recommending the application of ice. She did not get any better. Birgit did not sleep a wink that night. In the meantime, her coach called Dr. A three times asking for help. His recommendation was: “Godamed”, but “not too many“. He also consulted Dr C, an emergency physician, who recommended “Aspirin” and “Heparin” ointment. And that was it.

The next morning, at 6:30am, Dr. A visited Dressel again. She was in “excruciating pain”, but had a “strong pulse”.  He did not observe any indication of a shock, allergic symptoms or neurological disorder. Because of the “excruciating pain”, his diagnosis was: “kidney attack”. It was one of a number of false assumptions and wrong diagnoses that were made on that day. Sixteen hours and twenty-four new treatments stood between Birgit and death. Almost every new diagnosis was followed by a new therapy. Tens of new medications would be pumped into Birgit’s dying body. This time, Dr A injected a large ampoule of “Meta-Attritin”, another medicinal compound. This “shot” was supposed to be injected into her back muscle. But however hard he tried, he could not effect the injection. The muscle was so tight that the syringe bent. Dr. A gave her the injection in the right buttock.

After the second visit, Dr. A decided to send Birgit to a clinic, two days after she first felt the fatal pain. With a presumed “kidney attack” and in severe pain, Dressel was transported to the Urology Department at Mainz University Medical Centre, which, like other similar institutions, enjoyed a good reputation. A number of specialists gathered around Dressel. After three long hours, a team of specialists, that had already been convened, gave the priority to the urologist, Dr. C. After an x-ray examination, he concluded that, as far as his area of expertise was concerned, he could not detect any impairment. His colleague, Dr. D, agreed with this conclusion and notified his superior, primarius Dr. E, accordingly. In the meantime, to relieve her pain, she was given an injection of “Buscopan”.

It was 1pm. Birgit was transported to the emergency surgical ward. She was moaning in pain. Four surgeons tended to her. The first, Dr. F, thought that the most important thing was to relieve the pain.  Birgit then received intravenous therapy, in which, over the course of several hours, she was given two ampoules of “Buscopan Compositum” deluted with “Sterofundin”. “Buscopan Compositum” also contains five grams of a substance called metamizol, which, due to its severe side-effects, was later banned by the Ministry of Health of the Federal Republic of Germany. According to the forensics report, Dressel may have received a fatal dose. Birgit survived this treatment, but the pain remained.

Emergency surgeons, F, G, H, and I, finally came to the correct conclusion that it was not a sports injury, but “multiple organ failure” or, as an ancillary assumption, a “disc or spinal cord disease”. The autopsy showed that their suspicion was right. Birgit had a severe inflammation of the spinal nerves, and this caused the pain. Acting on this diagnosis, a general surgery specialist, primarius J, and two neurosurgeons, doctors K and L, were called in. Seven hours after being admitted to the clinic, Dressel was still able to “orient herself in time and space“ and was complaining of great thirst. In their joint report, the neurosurgeons recorded that Birgit “was talking a lot”. At the same time, her lips and nails turned blue. There was also some white crusting on her lips. While answering questions, Dressel “uncontrollably released urine“. The diagnosis of the surgeons was: “There is no indication of a neurological disorder; suspected pill poisoning.”

In addition to the team of neurologist, a team of internal medicine specialists was convened and computer tomography of the head was performed. Neurologists Dr. M and Dr. N were called in, but there was nothing they could do. The doctors could only conclude that she had endured a “shock, threatening her vital functions”. Birgit’s athletic heart began to beat faster and faster, and she had difficulty breathing. Such an urgent case required an anesthesiologist. Doctors O, P, Q, R, S, T, and U, were called in. In response to the energetic voice of the internal medicine specialist, Birgit moved her arm and opened her eyes for the last time. They put an oxygen mask on her face and she was moved to the emergency room, where she would be placed in an induced coma and put on a respirator. An hour later, at 19h 45min, the dying Birgit was put in an emergency vehicle and, under constant supervision, transported to the intensive care unit. The diagnosis was now: “Suspected blood poisoning, blood decomposition”. The diagnosis was correct but belated. At that moment, Birgit was already in the claws of death.

Doctors V and W made a last attempt to save her life. Among other medications, they gave her four units of blood and high doses of natural hormones. All in vain. Birgit’s tortured body could no longer fight for life. “World-class athletics“ and thousands of pills and injections had done their job. On 10 April 1987, Birgit passed away.



1) The text is based on the article published on 7 September 1987, by the German magazine “Der Spiegel” under the title “Tod einer Sportlerin” (“The Death of an Athlete”).

2) Compare: „Der Spiegel“, 9/1992.

Translated from Serbian by Vesna Todorović (Petrović)

English translation supervisor Mick Collins


“Socialist sport”


One of the greatest illusions created and systematically encouraged by Stalinist ideologues is that of the so-called “socialist (communist) sport”. Bourgeois ideologues enthusiastically accepted this fraud. It did not occur to them, although they persistently maintained that all that came from the East was “propaganda”, to question the “socialist” and “communist” attributes, overlooking the fact that a number of Marxist theoreticians from the West strongly opposed the theory and practice of Soviet “socialism” and that in the USSR, itself, a number of Marxist critics of Stalinism were liquidated or forced to leave the country. The most important goal of the “free world” ideologues was obviously to intimidate the workers in their countries with the “specter of communism”, reducing Marx’s vision of socialist (communist) society to the practice of Stalinism. It is in that context that the official attitude of the West towards Soviet sport should be viewed. The West sought to present the overwhelming domination of Soviet and East-European athletes on the world scene as the result of “manipulation” and “abuse” of these competitors by “communist totalitarianism”, while, at the same time, unofficially of course, doing everything, including mimicking Eastern sports training, to overcome the painfully inferior position in which it found itself. Even after the disintegration of the “Eastern bloc” and the Soviet Union, “socialist sport”, considering its results, remained the unattainable ideal for the “Western world”.

Great doubts about the endeavors to develop free physical culture were caused by the so-called “Marxist-Leninist” project of physical education (sport) in the USSR. The very term “Leninist” suggests an adaptation of Marx’s critique of capitalist society – whose realization presupposes a bourgeois society, its contradiction developed to the utmost, which in its “bosom” created possibilities for the “leap from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom“ (Engels) – to the conditions of the post-revolutionary Soviet society (by turning it into a positivist “theory of socialism”, i.e., a means for obtaining the “scientific” legitimacy for the practice of “real socialism”), built on the ruins of an order which hardly stepped into capitalism and which contained not one essential element for stepping out of it, let alone for overcoming the capitalist world. The “new socialist physical culture” was built on the conception, which became dominant in the USSR after the collapse of the revolutionary workers’ movement in the West, that it was possible to “build socialism” on the foundations of an underdeveloped bourgeois society by relying on “indigenous forces” and by “taking from capitalism whatever was useful for the development of socialism” (Lenin). By using this mechanistic logic, the chief ideologues of the USSR “overlooked” the fact that “taking” the institutions of capitalist society simultaneously necessitated the establishment of the very social relations that the Revolution sought to abolish. The principles inherited from the “legacy” of capitalist society became the unquestionable guiding principles in the development of theory and practice in the USSR. The true socialist ideas, arising from Marx’s libertarian humanism, were to be discarded immediately after the Revolution as “leftist radicalism”. What appears in Marx, with respect to a developed capitalist society, as a (concrete) utopian project, was proclaimed, in the post-revolutionary (especially Stalinist) period, a utopistic fantasy. Instead of overcoming sport and establishing a libertarian physical culture, which was particularly supported by “proletarian-cultists” (opposed to the “mania” of setting records), a “socialist sport” and a “socialist physical culture” were established, hopelessly remaining within the boundaries of the capitalist ideological horizon.

The uncritical attitude to sport involved an uncritical relation to quantitative measurement as a basis for determining human “value” and as an intermediary in human relationships; to a technologized and functionalized mind and relating that to industrial “aesthetics” (body mechanization); to inhuman combat between people in “blood sports” such as boxing (which was particularly supported by Anatoly Lunacharsky, one of the leading figures in post-revolutionary sport), which retained the attribute of a “noble art”; to breaking links with national cultures with the establishment of “uravnilovka” (equal compensation regardless of contribution) based on physical “qualities”; to institutional degradation of women, e.g., the use of military drills reduced unto eliminated the erotic, the sensuous, the spiritual, spontaneity, imagination, in effect, disregarded man’s playing nature, without which there is no genuine humanism.

It is only in this context that those consequences of Lenin’s view, fatal to the overall development of human beings and genuine human relations, that athletics, gymnastics and other forms of physical exercise, are more important for young people than issues pertaining to their sexual life, become clear. By appealing to one of the most reactionary principles of bourgeois thought, “a healthy body is a healthy soul” (1), Lenin significantly contributed to the oppression of the body, which peaked in “Stakhanovchina” – “a bureaucratic death of the body” according to Jean-Marie Brohm. It is about a systematic suppression of authentic human needs and the creation of a masochistic-productivistic character, which is ideally suited to the character of a model citizen from the period of the original accumulation of capital.

In spite of attaching great importance to the achievement of better results (records), the utmost goal of post-revolutionary Soviet sports pedagogy was not the creation of an athlete-record holder, but above all of a loyal (“conceptually conscious”) and usable (“useful”) “Soviet citizen”. In the 1925 “Resolution on Physical Culture”, it is pointed out that physical culture is not only a means for improving health, for physical education, for the development of cultural and labor values, and the enhancement of military training, but also a means for “educating the masses”, which, above all, means for the creation of a model citizen suited to the “needs of the time”, i.e., the demands on society made by the Party leaders. At the same time, physical culture has the task of instructing workers and peasants to take part, through the Party, in the activities of the trade union and the Soviets, of social and political life. It becomes the chief political means for integrating people into the established order. As for competition, according to Nikolai Semashko, President of the High State Council for Physical Culture in the post-revolutionary period, “It should ultimately serve as an instrument for including people in the building of socialism”. (2) In his speech to the Komsomol in Dniepropetrovsk in 1934, M.I. Kalinin, one of the leading Soviet pedagogues at that time, says the following: “Here, however, we should pay attention to this very important area of activity of the Komsomol, physical culture. Sport is a good thing; it builds you. However, in spite of that, it is but an ancillary activity, and it is not good if it becomes its own end, a matter of merely setting records. We want people to develop in all ways, we want them to run and swim well, to walk briskly and elegantly and every part of their body to be healthy – to put it concisely: we want them to be normal and healthy, able to work and defend themselves; we want proper development of all their physical qualities with a corresponding development of their mental qualities. – During our numerous visits to military schools, comrade Voroshilov paid special attention to these issues. He said that we should avoid the mere setting of records; that we should not engage in sport for sport’s sake; and that sport should be secondary to the general issues of communist education. Because all we do is not only toward the creation and development of athletes, but of citizens participating in the development of the Soviet state, people who must not only have strong arms and good digestion, but, above all, possess a broad political perspective and organizational skills. Hence, simultaneously with winning over millions of new young workers for the physical culture movement and raising sport in our country to the highest level, the Komsomol must see that our sports people have clearly shaped views of political matters and matters of general importance. I would like the members of the Komsomol to understand me properly. I do not want them to think that I wish to curb their enthusiasm. I want them to realize how important it is that things in all areas of our life and work are organized properly and in the Bolshevik manner.“ (3)

On the eve of the Second World War, physical culture and sport were developed under the motto: “Everything for the defense of the Soviet country!”. In December 1938, in his speech to school teachers, Kalinin emphasized the importance of physical culture for the development of a “collective comrade spirit”, starting from school days, which should enable the construction of a “steel wall” protecting the USSR from the West, which “waits for the right moment to destroy the Soviet Union”. (4)

After the Second World War, during the period of the “cold war“ and the appearance on the international scene of Soviet athletes (as well as athletes from the “socialist lager”), the (proclaimed) pre-war pedagogical doctrine was definitely abandoned, first in practice and then in theory. Sports victories and records became one of the most important means of order in the struggle for international prestige and the strengthening national power, and athletes consequently became the frontline warriors. To set a record (“For the country!”) became the chief, unquestioned goal of any sports competition. By including science, sport became an industry engaged in the production of record holders, with physical culture as the “broadest basis for the development of world-class competition”. Instead of criticizing the one-sided physical activism and a complete subjugation to sport, which turns people into anti-social beings and physical and mental invalids, the record holders are being praised and granted the status of “heroes of socialism”.

Professionalism is an inevitable step in the current development of sport: athletes acquire the peculiar status of state hirelings. Certainly, a proper “socialist” justification was found for that. After the international athletics became part of the global entertainment industry (show-business), “socialist sport” became commercialized and after the disintegration of the “Eastern bloc” and the Soviet Union, Western capital bought “socialist sport” at a low price and without any resistance in order to turn it into its advertising billboard.

The most important point in this context is that the entire process of the “transformation” of sport in the USSR developed under the guise of “progressive changes in socialist sport”. Never were the (Marxist) humanist ideals of socialism (communism) confronted with the reality of established “socialism”. Under the ideological mask of a “struggle for communism”, a ruthless struggle with critical thought developed, with thinking that might have demonstrated the true nature of “socialist sport” and, coincidentally, the true nature of “real socialism”. And while Marxist thinkers in the West were criticizing the inhuman nature of sport and revealing its political background, in the USSR and other “socialist” countries the undisputed authorities in sports pedagogy and the “amateur sport” movement were personalities like Pierre de Coubertin, who devoted the entirety of his “Olympic” life to the struggle against the libertarian workers’ movement and the ideals of socialism and bequeathed all of his written legacy to the Nazis, entrusting them with the task of preventing his Olympic ideal from being “distorted”. Under different ideological guises, Coubertin and Soviet bureaucracy were united in one thing: sport is an institution that serves to preserve the ruling order. Their common enemy was the working class as a possible agent of social changes. This orientation led to Juan Antonio Samaranch, for forty years one of the leading figures in the Spanish fascist movement and who never renounced his fascist past, being elected (with the decisive support of the Soviet bureaucracy) President of the International Olympic Committee in Moscow, capital of the country where fascism caused terrible sufferings, killing over twenty five million people.

The ideologues of “real socialism” were of one voice when it came to emphasizing the “emancipatory” character of “socialist sport”, which included most importantly its “mass character”, the active participation of women, the achievement of heightened results (records) as an expression of its “progressive strivings”, and so on. As for “mass character”, it should be said that Nazis maniacally insisted on the value of “mass physical culture and sport” (“Kraft durch Freude“). It was also the practice in the USA (“Recreation Program”, etc.), particularly today when “physical culture” has become one of the main forms of consumerism in the struggle for survival in the increasingly cruel everyday life of capitalist society. Thus, it is not the mass character, itself, that differentiates “capitalist physical culture” from “socialist physical culture”; it is rather its nature: is it a libertarian activity or is it about integrating man into an order where he is ruled by capital or the state? It should be added that so-called “mass physical culture” has officially become the “broadest rationale for the reproduction of world-class sport”, with millions of children involved in “sports programs” (above all, in the former-Eastern Germany), whose norms and working methods are dictated by the so called “world-class sport” that has led to the ultimate physical and mental destruction of man. Abuse of children, for the sake of “progress”, has taken on a monstrous dimension. The “emancipation of women” through sport should be viewed in the same context. It means that sport, in practice, has become a space for the (increasingly brutal) exploitation of women. To make matters worse, due to biological constraints (and in spite of the increasing use of “stimulants”) that are ever more dramatically effecting so-called “men’s sports”, woman has become the principal “engine” for setting records and the means for proving the “progressive” character of the ruling order. The true position of “women’s emancipation” in Soviet sport (society) can be seen in the fact that, before 1972, in spite of the domination on the international scene of female Soviet athletes and a growing number of women coaches, only one woman, and for only about three months, ever held a leading position in Soviet sport. (5)

Where the “Marxist” legitimacy of “socialist sport” is concerned, it should be noted that for Marx socialism is not a socio-economic end-stage, but a transitional period to the establishment of communism, the stage in which both the basic capitalist (economic and proprietary) relations and institutional spheres of bourgeois society will be abolished. It is about the “dying out” (Engels) of the institutions of bourgeois society, including sport, and not about “building socialism” by “strengthening” them (Stalin). Marx insists on workers as an “association of agents” participating directly in governing the overall social reproduction (social ownership), while Stalinism insists on the strengthening of State institutions, on the state’s power over man (state ownership). Society as a community of free creative people, namely, a communal life which is neither mediated nor subjugated by the repressive institutions of bourgeois society (the so called “public sphere”), but is always a novel, more developed, wealthier product of creative human activity in terms of its forms and contents – this is one of the main challenges of Marx’s humanism, totally opposed to Stalinism, which reduces society to a peculiar labor camp.

The Soviet conception of physical culture (sport) is not only a deviation from the fundamental postulates of Marx’s critique of capitalist society and its institutions, but also from Marx’s “Instructions” to workers from 1866 regarding the use of physical exercise as a means for strengthening the body and educating young workers. (6) Marx emphasizes the importance of physical education primarily as a means for developing class-consciousness and class integration of workers – for fighting against the bourgeoisie, which in Marx means against exploitation and subjugation. Workers, united as a class, are a revolutionary agent of changes and, thus, are free from the tutorial guidance of the bourgeoisie, the state and the Party. Physical, just like spiritual and poly-technical, education does not serve to turn man (worker) into a loyal and usable “citizen”, but, rather, is an authentic activity for a libertarian-oriented man who seeks to “destroy all relations in which man is a humiliated and oppressed being” (Marx) and create his own (genuinely human) world.

In the Soviet doctrine of physical culture (sport) there is no class integration since workers have already “seized power” (through Revolution) and thereby abolished class society, which means abolishing themselves as a class. In the “new” society, they are, as individuals, reduced to being “citizens” who are in a subordinate position with relation to the government (state, Party), and in terms of collectivity, they are the amorphous and unconscious “working masses” or “working people”. The ideologues of Stalinism reduce man, as does the church, to a “sheep” that is to be led to “paradise” (“communism”) by its “shepherds” (Party leaders), and be shorn and milked along the way. Man is by his nature “good”, but not sufficiently grown-up to account for his actions and assume responsibility for social development. So-called “historical materialism” becomes the fatal force that, through the Party leaders’ holding the key to the “holy secret”, governs human lives and determines the course of the development of society. What is left to man is to unquestioningly believe in the “infallibility of leaders” and obediently execute what is required of him. It is not the consciousness of an emancipated citizen, but the consciousness of a subject. The worker is no longer a revolutionary agent in the struggle against capitalism for a communist society; he has become part of the “working masses”, which have been reduced to a tool of the Party leaders for the “building of socialism”. Instead of encouraging man to overcome the institutions of bourgeois society, his main task is the “struggle for their strengthening”. Physical culture is no longer a form of workers’ self-organization and the means for heightening their class-libertarian consciousness; it is rather an instrument for subjugating man and bending his behavior to the will of the ruling “elite”. Hence the ideologues of Soviet physical culture (sport) understand it primarily as organization, norms, “common goals” dictated by party decrees, i.e., a mechanism for keeping the “masses” under control. “Personal initiative” is welcome, but only when it follows the ruling spirit. Like “bourgeois physical culture” and “bourgeois sport”, “socialist physical culture” and “socialist sport” have become one of the chief political means for destroying the critical-changing (class-libertarian) consciousness of workers and for integrating them into the established order – which is the opposite of Marx’s idea of libertarian physical activism.

Marx’s thought is multi-layered. When he speaks to young workers advising them how to fight against capitalists, Marx’s thought on physical culture remains within the framework of the bourgeois order. To young workers he recommends “physical education similar to that provided in schools for gymnastics and through military drills” /emphs. K.M./ (7), the sort produced in bourgeois society that is the privilege of aristocratic and bourgeois youth, so they can become physically stronger and develop a belligerent class spirit, which will, ultimately, enable them to take power. Unlike bourgeois pedagogues who give precedence to physical education over spiritual growth, Marx gives priority to “spiritual education”, i.e., he views physical education in the context of an overall human development. Physical exercises are not the means by which the character of a “model citizen” is created, but the means for the development of a free man. The education of young workers involves the impulse of human emancipation, which derives from Marx’s view that the proletariat is not struggling for their special class interests, which is typical of the bourgeoisie and previous classes, but for the realization of common human interests. By “entrusting” the proletariat with the “mission” of liberating mankind from plundering and tyranny, the physical education of young workers acquires a libertarian dimension. Indeed, the worker has not yet freed himself from the dominant forms of physical education, but he treats them as the means that will (along with paid productive labor, spiritual and poly-technical education) “elevate the working class considerably above the upper and middle classes” (aristocracy and bourgeoisie). (8) The superiority of young workers is based on the overall development of their personalities, which opens up the possibility of their immediate management of overall social reproduction. It is about the pragmatic logic, which, “in the given circumstances”, departs from the “general laws, the observation of which is enforced by the state power”, while the working class by “adapting them to life” “makes a tool of the power which is now used against it”. /emphs. K.M/ (9) Obviously, it is about strivings to use legal possibilities by the legal means offered by the capitalist order for the purpose of achieving the working class (universally human) goals. Civil institutions should become the instrument of the working class in its struggle against the capitalist order.

If it is not the true goal of the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat to take power and, especially, to keep it by using the institutions of bourgeois society (Engels’ view on the “dying out” of the institutions of bourgeois society in socialism), but to abolish the power relations (subjugation), it should be consider just how it is possible to take a significant step forward by using the means that, per se, prevent man from developing his genuine human powers, and without which there are no new horizons? Let us take for example the physical exercises recommended to the proletariat youth by Marx. These are, in essence, military drills intended to “discipline” the child, and do little more than suppress sexuality, sensuality, spontaneity, imagination… Instead of respecting their personalities, children are turned into impersonal executors of exercises that do nothing more than mimic the functions of machines and are, by their nature, contrary to everything offered by the possibility of developing a spiritually rich individual – the main reason why bourgeois pedagogy used this rote training for the creation of the “model citizen”. It is precisely by departing from Marx’s epochal notion that by changing the world man changes himself, that we can ask how much the world has actually changed if man, as an individual, remained within the spiritual confines of capitalist society?

The struggle for human emancipation by means of bourgeois physical culture (sport) is conducted on the field of the bourgeois society. It becomes the means for integrating workers into the order dominated by the values of the bourgeois society. Coubertin saw that clearly. Despite being a fanatical anti-socialist, he supported, at the time of the crisis of European capitalism, the idea of organizing “Workers’ Olympic games” in order to keep the future horizon for workers within the framework of a society dominated by mutual struggle for victory – through the achievement of a greater result (record). He realized that a (possible) political victory by the workers does not mean the end of capitalist society if the fundamental principles of that society continue to prevail. The possibility offered to everyone freely to engage in sport does not mean that man realizes his true freedom through sport. Let us take for example boxing, where the spirit of sport is most clearly expressed. Can the true freedom of man be asserted by inflicting physical injuries on another man, who is reduced to an “opponent”, while killing is the essential part of the risk involved in a “sports competition”? Or by endeavors to create, through the increasingly ruthless destruction of the organism, ever “greater results” (records)? “To rule the heads”, through physical culture and sport – this is the basic aim of Coubertin’s “utilitarian pedagogy”, which he earned him the respect of the Olympic gods of modern times.

Interestingly, the bourgeois ideologues, who until recently maintained that there was no “capitalism” in the West, that it is rather “industrial society”, now triumphantly state that “capitalism has won the battle with communism”. What does this victory consist of when it comes to sport? If it is about Western capital having become the master of the former “socialist sport” without any resistance whatsoever, it only means that it changed owners without changing its nature. The position of athletes is the best indicator of how much relations have changed. In “real-socialist” sport, athletes were engaged by the state, and the entire “sports engine” was a “billboard” for the ruling system. Since the victory of “democracy”, athletes have been hired by capitalist companies, and sport has become their advertising campaign and a banal kind of show-business. Moreover, considering the fact that, even in our country (Serbia), the leaders of the “new sport” are the same people who for decades held the leading positions in “socialist sport”, it is clear that “capitalism has won the battle” leaving behind a specter that, in collaboration with the ideologues of Stalinism, was created by the ideologues of the “free world”.



1) In: James Riordan, “Marx, Lenin and Physical Culture”, Journal of Sport History, vol.3 (1976) no. 2,158p.

2) N. A. Semashko, Puti sovetskoi fizkultury, 22p, in James Riordan, Sport in Soviet Society, 97p, Cambridge University Press, London,1977/

3) M. I. Kalinjin, On Communist Education, Literature in Foreign Languages, Moscow, 1953.

4) Ibid.

5) Compare: Riordan, Sport in Soviet Society, 406p.

6) Compare: K. Marx, “Instructions to Delegates of the Provisional Central Council”, in K. Marx – F. Engels, Opus, vol. 27, pp 157-158. Prosveta, Beograd, 1979. In “Capital”, Marx refers to Robert Owen and his “factory system”, which generated the “germ of future education that will, for all children above a certain age, unite the labor of production with education and gymnastics, not only as a method for increasing social production, but also as the only method for the production of versatile people” /Opus, vol. I, book 21, p 428/ For the formation of human character and plans for training children, including the attainment of a healthy body as the basic precondition for a happy life, see: Robert Owen, A New View of Society, p 27, Macmillan, London, 1972.

7) Marx, Instructions for the Delegates …, p 157.

8) Ibid, p 158.

9) Ibid, p 157.


Translated from Serbian by Vesna Todorović/Petrović

English translation supervisor, Mick Collins


“Док анђели спавају” – гост : Љубодраг Дуци Симоновић


“Док анђели спавају” – гост : Љубодраг Дуци Симоновић

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На некадашњој БК Телевизији, у серијалу “Док анђели спавају” којег је уређивала и водила Марина Рајевић Савић, гост емисије био је Љубодраг Дуци Симоновић. Емисија је снимљена 1996-те године.

Ljubodrag Simonović Duci: Olympism and fascism, sport, capitalism and destruction


Olympism and fascism, sport, capitalism and destruction

Link to the video: on YouTube
Video report can be downloaded from this site.

In this interview Duci talks about:

• the connection between olympism and fascism
• depoliticization of workers through sport
• destruction of children in sport
• the need for the development of visionary consciousness which needs to be guiding principle in struggle against capitalism
• Breivik representing destructive spirit of contemporary capitalism
• idea of communism as the only idea that has rational relationship towards the environment, giving chance to the humanity to exist and to preserve life on the planet”.

Љубодраг Симоновић Дуци гост на ТВ Прибој: Емисија о школи


Омладински екран ТВ Прибој – Додатни час

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“Омладински екран је назив циклуса емисија намењених младима у продукцији Телевизије Прибој. Прва емисија “Додатни час” бави се проблемима данашњег школства. У емисији учествују ученици и наставници из Прибоја и два специјална госта – дечји психијатар Светомир Бојанин и доктор филозофије Љубодраг Дуци Симоновић. Наредне емисије бавиће се уметношћу, спортом, историјом”.

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