"The Olympics could not have taken place"
We met Valery Kulichenko for the first time after a long period of isolation - in the famous House on the embankment opposite the Kremlin. The specialist received this apartment just after the Olympic Games in Moscow thanks to the request of the Minister of Sports of the USSR, Sergei Pavlov.
- We were preparing for that Olympics, of course, in a terrible way. The late Valentin Sych (deputy chairman of the USSR Sports Committee. - RT ) kept all the teams in a fist. He regularly gathered meetings with the participation of all the leaders of the Olympic teams, and the coaches were afraid of these meetings like fire. Because he thoroughly knew everything that was happening. If he noticed one or another inaccuracy in the mentor's report, he arranged a public blast, not choosing expressions.
The main goal of the Sports Committee at that time was the position that the senior coach was responsible for everything that happened in the team. Therefore, personal mentors were not supposed to be in the national teams at all. The only exception was Nikolai Malyshev, who worked with Tatyana Kazankina, who, as a two-time Olympic champion at the Montreal Olympics, was in a special account. In addition to her, two more athletes trained with a specialist, so we took such a step.
- Is it true that during the Olympics in Moscow you refused to receive the badge of the honored coach of the USSR?
- Not really. Then, after all, the title of Honored Coach, as well as the title of Honored Master of Sports, was given only for an Olympic victory or two at the World Championship. When Nadezhda Olizarenko won gold at a distance of 800 m with a world record, the deputy chairman of the USSR Sports Committee, Valentin Sych, told me, they say, get ready: you will receive a badge at the morning solemn ruler - there was such a tradition. So I asked her to assign the award to her personal mentor Boris Gnoev, who at one time found this athlete and brought her to the level of a master of sports before she came to my national team. I then persuaded the owl, albeit with a creak. I called Boris myself, gave him a pass to the Olympic village. And already at the very end of the Olympics, this title was awarded to me.
- In the historical archives there is a note by Leonid Brezhnev to Konstantin Chernenko, in which he expressed great doubts about the need for the Games - they are too costly and unpredictable in terms of political sabotage. It was even suggested that the Politburo consider the option of refusal with payment of a fine.
- I fully admit that the Olympics really could not have taken place if not for the chairman of the Sports Committee Sergey Pavlov. At that time, his political weight was incredibly great, moreover, it was he who won the right to host the Games-80 in Moscow. Indeed, there were rumors that the secretary general was not happy, although it seems to me that in fact this issue was not seriously discussed. After all, the USSR at that time was a grand sports power, and the Olympics itself became an amazing holiday for the country. Everyone was crying when the Olympic bear flew into the sky at the closing ceremony. And our athlete Viktor Saneev opened the competition - he made a circle around the Luzhniki Stadium.
- Saneev became the second at those Games, although the standard-bearer of the national team, like the torch-bearer, was secretly chosen from among the athletes who should not be defeated under any circumstances. When at the Olympics in Seoul it was decided to entrust the banner to 20-year-old Alexander Karelin, they demanded almost a guarantee from the leadership of the wrestling team that this athlete would win gold.
- By that time, Saneev was a three-time Olympic champion, so he was chosen. When in 2000 I brought the team to the Olympic Games in Sydney, I specially sought out Victor, who had lived in Australia for many years, and invited him to the team to introduce him to the guys. By the way, he then told how, out of his own stupidity, he lost to Estonian Jaak Uudmäe in Moscow - he struck the ground with thorns during a triple jump.
- Is it true that specially trained employees of the Luzhniki Stadium during the spear throwers' competitions opened wide the opposite gates of the stadium so that the through stream of air carried the "Soviet" shells further?
- The story is beautiful, but I don’t think it’s real. Probably, in this way you can achieve an advantage of a couple of centimeters. But our Dainis Kula then beat Sergey Makarov by more than one and a half meters, and he, in turn, was ahead of the German Wolfgang Hanisch by 2.92 meters. So all this is a fairy tale. Another question is that at the end of the Games, when the Soviet athletes had already under four dozen medals and they continued to pour in, the same Sych laughed, they say, calm down, enough to win ... We were just happy, we understood that we had done a great job for the country.
- Were there any grounds to assume that the result would be so outstanding?
- A lot of people worked for him then. Two years before the Games, all head and senior coaches were ordered to draw up lists of athletes who could apply for medals so that they would be supervised by leading specialists of the Academy of Sciences. This concerned primarily medical issues related to the health of people, with their recovery and, accordingly, the ability to show high results.
- Did you have any fear that the methods might be prohibited?
- During that period, a lot was allowed. For example, the method of blood transfusion was considered absolutely legal, when a certain volume of blood was taken from an athlete, it was processed in a centrifuge, enriched with erythrocytes, and before the start was returned to the same person. They also took blood from our guys at some of the last pre-Olympic training camps, but do you remember what the weather was like during the Games?
- It was very hot?
- Exactly. I was then called by the coach of the silver medalist of the 1972 Games in Munich in the 800m race, Niele Sabaite. Lithuania at that time had good contacts with the West, and their specialists had a lot of information, including about pharmacology. He warned me not to allow my girls to undergo transfusions under any circumstances, because in the heat the blood viscosity rises greatly and the heart ceases to cope with its pushing.
Before the Olympics, Sych received a command to send the entire team to the blood institute to give the athletes a reverse transfusion. I came to Valentin Lukich and said that I would not do this, explained the reason. He shouted at me for a long time, stamped his feet, and in the end I got the right to do as I see fit. But in case of unsuccessful performance of women, I immediately write a letter of resignation and leave my post.
- Surely there were those who obeyed?
- There were. I won't name names, but none of the athletes who received the transfusion managed to show the result - people could hardly crawl through that heat to the finish line. I don't know if I need to talk about it now.
- But pharmacological methods have always been used by all the world's leading athletes?
- It really is. Now, for example, it became known that the British during the 2012 Games used an experimental drug developed for the US Special Forces and that allows to increase endurance and stress resistance. At one time, we used bromantane for the same purposes, created for Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan. All this was and is, you can't get away from it.
- Many of these drugs are now classified as therapeutic exceptions.
- When such a practice in sports just appeared, we found ourselves in a difficult situation: there were no doctors in the country who could professionally understand this direction, and the whole world followed this path. Then we fell behind. Unfortunately, we still do not have strong sports doctors. What can they recommend to the athlete? Only what they will be given. So they recommend the same thing to sprinters, marathon runners, and throwers. Is it possible?
"Kazankina wrote a denunciation against me"
- What medal of the Moscow Olympics would you call the most valuable?
- Probably a sprint where Lyudmila Kondratyeva won two German women. In fact, the most valuable thing at those Games was not medals, but the atmosphere of the competition: everyone is confident, everyone laughs, there is not a single gloomy face.
- And not a single emergency in the entire Olympics?
- Surprisingly, it didn't happen. It is clear that all the teams were accompanied by guys in uniform, but this attention was not intrusive. Not like it happened at other competitions abroad, when on the last day the team is taken for three hours to a huge shopping center and is warned in advance that not showing up for the return bus is equivalent to running away and will have grave consequences for each latecomer. And you rush through this store at breakneck speed, buy something on the go, without considering it all too much.
At the 2001 World Championships in Edmonton, where I beat the Americans for the first time, I remember taking my girls to a store where Jewish immigrants were selling. On emotions I say: “You can buy everything here! And sheepskin coats, and fashionable turtlenecks, and whatever! ". And suddenly I hear a quiet voice over my ear: "Valery Georgievich, you are going too far ...". He turned - no one was around, only someone's back was moving away.
- How did you react to the talk that the medals of the Moscow Olympics cannot be considered full, since athletes from the USA did not compete there?
- We already assumed then that we would not go to the next Games. There should have been a response to the boycott of Moscow, because relations with the United States were very tough, with hostility. It turns out that the Olympic victories in Los Angeles were not too full-fledged. It is clear that all this was discussed, but they said this: the Olympic gold medal - it is the gold medal, no one will take it away. And orders were given for them, and prizes.
- How serious was the pharmacological support of our teams at the 1980 Olympics?
- Grigory Vorobyov was responsible for all the medicine in our team until 1996, and he worked completely autonomously: we, the coaches, were simply not allowed near this kitchen. And every personal mentor tried his best to please Grisha, so that his athlete was included in the list for priority receipt of certain drugs.
- Why? Absolutely legal, those that were used for recovery. There were just a lot of athletes, and the number of high-quality imported medicines was limited. After Vorobyov was expelled in 1996 for leaking all the information on bromantane to the West, he left for the United States to live with his son. After some time, he placed him in a nursing home, where he died.
There was talk that the son allegedly has diaries in which his father wrote out the pharmacological program throughout the years that he worked in the national team. This bike walked around the country quite widely, and many were afraid: after all, no one knew what exactly the athletes received. But I don't believe in this story. If Grisha really had such information, he would have sold it himself, since he was always too greedy for money.
As for the violations, in 2001 we caught Olga Egorova: her first sample, taken during the Golden League in Paris, tested positive for erythropoietin. And sample B, which was tested in the same place in France, did not confirm this - nothing forbidden was found in it. The president of the All-Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF) Valentin Balakhnichev was categorically against us taking her to Edmonton for the World Championships, he wanted to play it safe. But I did it, having received permission from the President of the IAAF, Primo Nebiolo. And Olga won gold at a distance of 5000 m.
- Were you not afraid to put on such a major tournament an athlete with a tarnished reputation?
- Olga's coach swore that he did not give anything forbidden to her. I believed him. Although in those years the competition for getting into the national team was so high that many personal mentors were ready to do anything.
- In 2007 Balakhnichev removed you from the team precisely for doping ...
- In fact, the reason was completely different. Valentin called me several times after the incident, apologized for that decision. I won't go into details, but let's just take a look at the statistics: at the five Olympic Games where I trained athletes, they punctured twice, and both times in Athens. Irina Korzhanenko, who was trained by her weightlifting husband and who, I know for sure, went to the Games with absolutely clean analyzes, was then disqualified in our shot put. Then Svetlana Kriveleva fell under suspension, whose spouse was also involved in direct training.
- But Kriveleva was removed only five years later.
- Yes, the bronze was taken away during the repeated rechecking of the samples. That's all. At the 2006 European Championships in Gothenburg, we received 34 awards - 12 gold, 12 silver and 10 bronze medals. This record is held to this day and I do not know if it will ever be broken. All Russian doping tests from that championship were checked immediately after the performances, and after five years, and after eight - nothing was found. In 2007 I left the team. At the Games in Beijing, we lost 11 awards due to doping, and four years later in London - 13. But Balakhnichev at that time was the second person in world athletics.
- How could you surrender all positions so mediocrely?
“I don’t understand that either. On the other hand, everything is logical. In the last years of his work, Balakhnichev burned out everything around him: he removed specialists who he saw as a danger to himself personally. He was terrified that someone was aiming at his place. Well, now we have what we have.
- After the Moscow Olympics, you were removed from the national team for almost 12 years, despite the outstanding result. A little later, the chairman of the sports committee Pavlov lost his post. Do you have an explanation why those resignations happened?
- On me, and I know it for sure, wrote a denunciation to the Central Committee of the CPSU Kazankina. Apparently, I could not forgive that my wife Valentina Gerasimova constantly beat her at the USSR championships. So they presented me with too authoritarian methods of leadership and lowered the opinion of the Central Committee from above that it would be more correct to leave. But in general, I suppose, a banal envy of success.
- It seems that only the home Olympics were important to the country's leadership. We carried it out successfully, and then at least the grass would not grow.
“Perhaps it was so. On the other hand, at that time, people in leadership positions were often shuffled. Regardless of any merit.
- Were you really overly authoritarian?
- The team must always be managed, held in hand. Sport in terms of discipline is the same army. In order to go on the attack or to fight off, you need to have a plan of action, develop it in detail with your headquarters. But after that, any step to the right or left is a firing squad. It is tough, but only in this case you can count on success.
- Remember your most uneducated coaching act?
- Interest Ask. On the contrary, I have always told all my athletes that they are the best, the greatest. That only they are capable of achieving an outstanding goal. Although once there was a case - he whipped a girl on the cheeks right before the final of the World Cup. She had a hysteria a few minutes before the start. Brought to life in this way.
- And how did it end?
- With a medal ...