One of the most curious episodes in the history of ice hockey at the Winter Olympics coincided with the 1976 Innsbruck Games in Austria.
Following the third leg of the final round-robin the 31-year-old Czechoslovak captain, FRANTISEK POSPISIL, was among the players chosen at random to provide a sample to International Olympic Committee officials for anti-doping tests.
CZECHOSLOVAKIA, expected to challenge the Soviet Union for supremacy in the Tyrolean Alps, had just defeated their Warsaw Pact allies and northern neighbors POLAND 7-1 to remain unbeaten and untied. Pospisil, appearing at his third Winter Olympic Games, scored no goals in the match but did provide one assist.
The team physician of the Czechoslovak ice hockey squad, DR. OTTO TREFNY, immediately admitted that Pospisil had been given codeine to combat a viral infection. An outbreak of influenza had descended upon the Olympic village in Innsbruck and several of the Czechoslovak puck men had been affected. Later, it was disclosed that morphine, in addition to codeine, had been found in Pospisil’s sample, as well.
The International Ice Hockey Federation had formulated an anti-doping policy in the summer of 1969 and a drug-testing policy was initially implemented at the 1972 Winter Olympic Games in Sapporo, Japan. Two years later, at the 1974 World Championships in Helsinki, the IIHF had its first doping cases to contend with. Both center ULF NILSSON of Sweden and goalie STIG WETZELL of Finland had tested positive for the banned substance of ephedrine over the course of the tournament.
At Helsinki, the IIHF penalties were severe as both players upon failure were immediately expelled from competition and suspended from international play for eighteen months. The matches affected by the positive drug test results — Sweden’s 4-1 victory over Poland and host nation Finland’s 5-2 upset of Czechoslovakia — were overturned. In each instance, a 5-0 defeat for the offending player’s team went into the record books.
At the 1976 Winter Olympic Games, however, Pospisil’s failed drug test was, indeed, handled differently by the IIHF and IOC officials in Innsbruck.
The player Pospisil was allowed to continue to compete in the ice hockey tournament. The team doctor Trefny was, initially, banned from the Olympics for life. Czechoslovakia was stripped of its 7-1 win over Poland and instead assigned a 1-0 defeat; the Poles, significantly, were not given the corresponding victory in the standings at Innsbruck.
“The flu epidemic cannot be used as an excuse for breaking the rules,” announced PRINCE ALEXANDRE DE MERODE, the president of the IOC’s medical committee.
“Instead of punishing people who have taken medicine against the flu, the commission should have taken steps to stop the flu,” responded the coach of the Czechoslovakia ice hockey team, KAREL GUT.
Apparently unaffected by the Pospisil affair, the Czechoslovaks defeated their neighbors from West Germany 7-4 in the fourth round to set a winner-take-all showdown with their Eastern-bloc arch-rival, the Soviet Union.