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Swimming at the 1972 München Summer Games:

Men's 400 metres Freestyle

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Host City: München, West Germany
Venue(s): Swimming Hall, Olympic Park, München
Date Started: September 1, 1972
Date Finished: September 1, 1972

Gold: AUS Brad Cooper
Silver: USA Steve Genter
Bronze: USA Tom McBreen


The world record had been set by Kurt Krumpholz of the USA at a meet in Chicago in August 1972, but he had not made the US Olympic team. Krumpholz broke the record set by [Brad Cooper] at the Australian Olympic Trials in February 1972. Cooper was favored, along with young American [Rick DeMont], who had won the US Olympic Trials, and was competing in Munich in both the 400 and 1,500. Also highly considered was [Steve Genter], silver medalist in the 200 free, who had recovered from a collapsed lung in Munich to win that silver.

In the final Cooper took the lead through 200 metres, followed by Genter and American [Tom McBreen], with DeMont a body length back in fourth place. But by 300 metres DeMont had moved up to Cooper’s shoulder, and caught him just before the final turn. Over the last lap there was nothing to choose and it was unclear who had won the race, but the electric timers have it to DeMont by 1/100th of a second – 4:00.26 to 4:00.27.

Or so it seemed. Two days later, DeMont swam his preliminary round heat in the 1,500 and qualified for the final of that event. And then came the news that he had tested positive for a banned substance and was disqualified from the 400 freestyle, and the 1,500 metres. Unlike many athletes who test positive, DeMont did not deny that he had taken Marax the night before his 400 metre races, but the reason was that Rick DeMont was an asthmatic and he regularly took Marax, and ephedrine derivative, to help control wheezing. When he had an attack in the Olympic Village he took a pill between 0100 and 0200 and took another pill the next morning. DeMont never hid the fact that he took the drug on a regular basis for his asthma, and had noted this on his medical form required of US athletes, but the United States’ team doctors had never checked to see if it contained any banned substances. Despite protests by United States officials, Rick DeMont was disqualified and Brad Cooper declared the winner of the 400 freestyle. When told of the final decision in Munich, Cooper said, “I don’t want the medal.”

In 1996 DeMont sued the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) for having mishandled his situation in Munich. Among other things, it was alleged that the IOC offered to exonerate DeMont and led him keep the gold medal if the USOC would have the US team doctors accept responsibility for the error, but the USOC refused. In 2001 the USOC finally accepted responsibility and asked the IOC to restore DeMont’s gold medal but the IOC would not do so.

In 1973 Rick DeMont went to Belgrade, Yugoslavia for the 1st World Aquatics Championships. In the final of the 400 metre freestyle, he defeated Brad Cooper, breaking the world record and becoming the first swimmer to better four minutes for the 400 free, recording 3:58.18. He also won silver there in the 1,500. DeMont later became a swim coach at the University of Arizona and an accomplished artist.

Brad Cooper had a superb career, which has been marred by the controversy surrounding his Munich 400 gold medal. He won 18 Australian Championships, and at the 1972 World Aquatics Championships won silver behind DeMont in the 400 and a bronze in the 1,500. He competed in the 1974 Commonwealth Games, winning a gold in the 200 backstroke, silver in the 400 free, and a bronze in the 100 back, and then retired.

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