I started my athletic career as a collegiate rower, then later went on to captain the first U.S. women’s rowing team in history: who competed at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and won the Bronze medal. Then, four years later, I became embroiled in an international scandal when, as a newly minted attorney, I challenged President Jimmy Carter’s boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympic games. The boycott, driven by political ambitions, served to threaten the rights of U.S. athletes to compete in the apolitical Games; an event where thousands of American athletes dedicated half of their lives to training for.

Nearly half a decade later, I was honored to be invited to join the International Olympic Committee, or IOC (the international organization founded to run the Olympics), as the first African American woman to serve as Vice President. As a ranking officer of the IOC, I then dedicated my life to spreading the spirit of the Olympics throughout the world, and to unite the many peoples of the countries participating. However, my tenure at the IOC has not always been one devoid of controversy. In 2016, I lead the charge and investigation into a global conspiracy to defraud the Olympics via government sponsored drug doping programs. The conspiracy involved many high ranking politicians, influential sports figures, and members of the medical community: needless to say, it was one moment in the history of the Olympics that threatened to destroy it as an institution forever.

In addition to the aforementioned topics, ask me anything about thinking like an Olympic Champion: tips and strategies that I have used throughout my life to turn incredible challenges into victories and success. I would love to share these with you as well!

So, without further ado, I look forward to your questions.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anitadefrantz

Website: https://www.anitadefrantz.com

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/My-Olympic-Life-Anita-DeFrantz/dp/0692885676

PROOF: https://www.facebook.com/anitadefrantz/photos/a.1928551044024942/2701640336716005/

***FINAL EDIT: Thank you again to everyone who participated in the AMA! I've tried to answer a mix of different types of questions, from informational to critical. If I didn't have a chance to answer yours, I invite you to join me on my Facebook page linked above, or join my newsletter (link at bottom of my website) to keep in touch. I do plan to do other live events and AMAs in the very near future. Again, thanks for being a great audience and thank you for your support of the Olympic Movement!

***EDIT 2: Great session again today! Also had the chance to answer some of the serious questions that you told me were quite pressing. Please click "view more replies" because some of my answers are toward the bottom of the threads. I apologize once again for a being a bit slow to answer, as the volume of questions, and their complexity, are a welcoming challenge. I am going to be coming back briefly tonight to wrap up some last minute questions.

***EDIT: Thank you for your questions! Have to get offline for now, but I will be returning again tomorrow, Monday at 10AM PST to answer more questions. In the interim, feel free to post new questions in the meantime and I'll do my best to address them tomorrow. Thank you!

Comments: 715 • Responses: 41  • Date: 

albert475684 karma

As you mentioned the games are supposed to be apolitical, so is there a specific reason other than international reality that Taiwan is forced to compete under Chinese Taipei? In the most recent push for changing the name, Taiwan’s Olympic committee was warned to not do so regardless of referendum results.

Edit: the warning is from IOC

anitadefrantz5 karma

Hi Albert475,

Thank you for the question. I have already answered this in great detail earlier (please search for the post by "bledfeet"). However, to add some clarity to your comment, the IOC did not warn the Taiwan NOC about the idea of changing their name. Rather, the NOC was told to submit the request through the proper channels up the IOC chain of command, rather than putting it on the docket for a government referendum. Again, please search for the "bledfeet" post where I go into greater detail about Taiwan.

skaryan499 karma

Why are allowing Russian athletes who doped not only participate but still represent their country, since they can place Russia on their gear (so long as its equal size to the nondescript Olympic contestant phrase) and have their colors? How do you justify the integrity of the games by allowing this? How is this any less corrupt than FIFA?

anitadefrantz154 karma

Hello Skaryan, thanks for the question - one that hits close to home as I was one of the IOC officers in charge of investigating a massive conspiracy in 2016 to enhance certain Olympic teams with illegal substances.

To start, please do not confuse my explanation with a justification of this. I raced against the Soviet Union and they were most certainly doped. Now, it is clear that the Russians are using a sophisticated means of doping their athletes. It pains me to no end that the US Congress passed an act that uses the name of the man who created the system and was able to escape Russia because of a US citizen who wanted to learn how he could dope to become better in cycling.

Regarding colors: You are referring to the recent outcome from the Court of Arbitration for sport, or CAS. In their ruling, (I have not yet read the entire 150 pages) they allow the national colors (red white and blue) on their uniforms and the word Russia along with the words neutral athletes, but no flags or anthems at the Games. The time was shortened from the WADA decision of 4 years to cover only the Tokyo and Beijing Games. All Russian athletes must prove they are clean athletes through their International Federations as was the case for Rio and Pyeongchang.

Also, all athletes who compete must have external verification of their status as clean, non doped participants. Additionally, the IOC stores athletes' drug samples for ten years after the Games and can retest those samples. So far, hundreds of athletes have had to return their medals because the detection system now has a decade to improve.

The Independent Testing Agency has continued to test athletes in and out of competition training despite COVID 19 - since during prep/training, that is where an athlete gets the best results for doping.

Today, we are working to do more. Of the 15 members of the IOC Executive Board, eight are Olympians: four women and four men. We competed during the bad old days without the support of WADA, so we are very serious about only having clean athletes at the Games. Outside of the Games it is the responsibility of International Federations and National Anti-Doping agencies like USADA. The Russian one is not accredited and cannot be used.

skaryan78 karma

Thanks for your response. Usually AMA ppl don’t respond to follow ups, I assume due to the volume of questions. However, it is interesting you point out the icarus documentary and Grigory Rodchenkov. While I agree he orchestrated the doping scheme and thus should be reprimanded. Do you not consider him to be in some capacity a whistleblower? And to your statement on him escaping Russia, do you think it would have been better for him to stay there, and in all likelihood be killed? I don’t think that’s too far fetched given the deaths of his colleagues, and the Russian government’s penchant for poisoning political opponents. His testimony was paramount to exposing the doping. It doesn’t rectify everything he did, but it should be noted. Also, my opinion was Bryan Fogel was more trying to understand how doping gives advantages in cycling rather than actually using doping to win (given the obvious doping controversy in the sport), considering he chronicled the entire process. But that’s a less important differing opinion.

In addition, while I recognize that some restrictions on the athletes were put in place, it seems like a slap on the wrist and I see no justification for keeping the name Russia or the athletes. They still compete. They can still win medals. And The Russian government don’t seem to care. Especially when their sanctions get cut in half.

ShrimpCrackers72 karma

And to add to that, Beijing cheated a lot and also gets a slap on the wrist and despite breaking its human rights agreements in 2008, it was awarded with the Winter Olympics for 2022.

Note how she's not really been actually responding to any of the difficult questions, this feels more like a PR attempt than a genuine effort at answering any difficult questions.

cynicaltheoretic33 karma

everything on r/iama is a pr attempt

ShrimpCrackers9 karma

Indeed, as is blatantly clear here. I do hope we get better responses upon their return.

anitadefrantz3 karma

Hi ShrimpCrackers,

This is my first AMA ever and the first time I'm using Reddit. However, I have to strongly disagree with you in that my AMA is a PR event. That was not the intention, and nothing is being sold here. I have already responded to several of your comments and questions earlier in earnest. Thank you for your interest in my event.

anitadefrantz3 karma

Hi ShrimpCrackers,

Again I must once again respectfully disagree with your assessment. I have also thoroughly covered the issue of China and also how the IOC deals with political questions and issues. You can find my original answer posted right under the comment by "master_chife". Anyway, thanks for participating in this event.

anitadefrantz2 karma

Hello again Skaryan,

Just finished answering some of the newer questions on the AMA. As this is the third and final round, I will be answering your comment with a follow up now.

So, please understand that I want a safe and fair competition. Also, I agree this seems not to match the fairness test. Not that it addresses the situation, but the athletes that will be eligible to compete in Tokyo and Beijing will NOT be any of the athletes that were doped.

With issues like state sponsored doping (which this clearly was, given the funding, the resources and the broad based program supporting the “scientist”), it is clearly a behemoth for the IOC which is a non-governmental organization, so there are limits of jurisdiction and law. Don't forget the special hole in the wall from the doping laboratory to the security headquarters through which the samples were exchanged.

My problem with the person I call the key perpetrator, was that it was a program that went on for many years: becoming more and more sophisticated. Yes, he did escape with the information, but WADA already knew that something was happening, and they unfortunately moved at a glacial speed when they should have taken up the issue right away. Perhaps my understanding of the events makes it impossible for me to celebrate the scientist. He is responsible for unknown harm to unknown numbers of athletes who may never be heard of since they did not make their teams.

Thanks for your interest in this AMA and of the Olympics. Take care.

Gawwse159 karma

Why would the Olympic committee consider removing Wrestling from the olympics? It’s one of the original games from the first olympics.

anitadefrantz42 karma

Hello Gawwse!

The question of wrestling has been resolved as the International Federation now conforms to the rules. Weightlifting is the one that is currently being questioned given the amount of doping that has been a part of that sport.

keetojm131 karma

Outside of the US( and maybe not even the US) has there ever been a host nation that had a positive ROI from hosting the Olympics?

anitadefrantz31 karma

Hi keetojm, thank you for your question.

Here's my answer: Yes and no. the actual organizing of the Games for example in Montreal, had a positive result. If you add the capital construction which stays in the city, that is another benefit that can be included in discussions of ROI. For example, even today, the Montreal Olympic Village is still providing housing. The IOC is working hard to get people to understand the difference between the initial organizing costs and the anticipated capital construction which stays with the city as investment infrastructure.

coach_pato98 karma

Hi Anita, as a human rights lawyer, what is your personal opinion on the Caster Semenya issue?

anitadefrantz39 karma

Hi coach_pato, thanks for your question.

To make it clear for the audience, Caster Semaya is an intersex individual who was assigned the female gender at birth. She is not a transgendered individual nor a male competing in women's events.

Now, with that bit of background being clear, I think the way she was treated by the World Athletics Federation (their new name) has been abysmal and unnecessarily hurtful. We are at a moment in this world when biological and chemical differences among people can be discerned scientifically. Thus far, only some science has found that the amount of testosterone (which is activated) can make differences in performances.

That is the case in people with certain syndromes (I am an attorney not a scientist, so I may not be using the proper words in my explanation). Now, International Federations are creating their own rules for who can compete in women's events. The WAF has limits of Testosterone in specific distances and maybe field events, but not across all of their events.

The most pressing issue is the question of Transwomen and Transmen - which is a different category of discussion altogether.

Overall, I think the fact that the results in womens and mens events continue to be different give us some information to utilize in our discussion about testosterone levels in athletes: and also in the debate about transgendered athletes' performances.

ancientflowers36 karma

Hi Anita,

Are you answering the questions yourself? Or is there a group with you deciding what to answer and how to answer them?

I'm always curious about this. And considering it's over an hour in and just 3 questions answered, it makes me wonder more about this.

anitadefrantz24 karma

Hi ancientflowers,

I am answering all of the questions myself. However, due to the unexpected volume of questions in such a short time, I have a younger, tech-savvier friend sitting with me and helping to organize all of the questions into a queue. I'm proceeding as fast as I can and will continue to answer everyone into tomorrow!

MarshaHN27 karma

Will Jim Thorpe gain solo credit for gold medals?

anitadefrantz3 karma

Hi Marsha!

It is my belief that Jim Thorpe, "Wa-Tho-Huk" is the sole gold medalist for Decathlon and Pentathlon at the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games. I am working with my IOC colleagues to make it so!

kevinspaceyiskeyser26 karma

What are your thoughts on Cricket and it's governing body's resistance on joining the Olympics? Do you see it being mutually beneficial if they ever decide to join?

anitadefrantz3 karma

Hi Kevin Spacey,

As you can imagine there are still a number of sports wishing to be on the Olympic program. If the International federation for Cricket is not interested, that is their choice. It's hard to assess the beneficial nature of that, but if they wish to initiate a bid for recognition, it will become clear. We would welcome the opportunity!

justoneofthegals9 karma

Hi! I am awed by your impact on the rowing world and the amazing work that you do. I've recently started a masters degree in Sport Management and have read some about the origins of amateurism as we understand it today. Do you have any thoughts on amateur vs. professional ideologies when it comes to rowing, and also to other Olympic sports?

anitadefrantz12 karma

Hi justoneofthegals. I believe you and I had an interview a few weeks back? Good to see you again.

My answer: In the 19th century and during the beginning of the 20th, there was professional rowing - supported largely by betting. It was mainly singles that raced. Originally, amateur meant an athlete never had income from working, whether in the sport or not. Jack Kelly was denied entry into the Royal Henley Regatta because he worked for a living. Interestingly, his son was able to row, decades later, and he had won the race!

Further, the meaning of professional and amateur has changed vastly over the years. In my era, I am certain the East Germans and Soviets were what we would consider professional, but we most certainly were amateurs. I never thought it made sense that each four years the US Olympic team was to spring forward with all the training and skills to conquer the world.

Lastly, it is hard to imagine professional rowers which would mean more income than expense. Maybe that day will come. I am determined that we support our US athletes much better so they do not have to live below the poverty line as I and many others did in order to become elite in the sport.

gencoloji6 karma

Do you think transwomen (born as male, became female later) should be allowed to participate in the olympics as females? Why? / Why not?

anitadefrantz3 karma

Hi Gencoloji,

This is a pretty "hot button" issue. Firstly, this issue has been delegated to the International Sports Federations (ISFs) and the IOC does not decide on it.

As to the question of "why or why not," I invite you to look at differences in results between men and women's competitive sports. I will leave you with that for now to consider.

KamtzaBarKamtza5 karma

Can you comment about the IOC's refusal to commemorate the 1972 Munich massacre of Israeli athletes at any point up to and including a 40th anniversary commemoration at the 2012 games? And what changed so that the IOC did have a commemoration at the 2016 games?

anitadefrantz2 karma

Hello Kamtza,

I am not personally or deeply familiar with this issue. However, I can say that in 2013, Thomas Bach became President of the IOC, and it was he who made these changes.

wingtales4 karma

Hi Anita! What do you think is the best aspect of rowing?

anitadefrantz4 karma

Hi wingtales! Thanks for the question.

Rowing, which is the noblest of sports and the ultimate team sport, provides worldwide lifelong friends and experiences. Finally, rowers are people who have learned to lead while following others.

Bikelangelo4 karma

Hey there, is it true that the Olympic Village is a very sexually driven place?

anitadefrantz5 karma

Hi Bikelangelo,

Interesting question. Athletes tend to be beautiful and healthy as a group and after a long time of stress: who knows. Please understand that the average age of Olympians is 26 or 27. And, yes, the Olympic games have resulted in some famous international marriages. A shorter answer would be, not my business as long as no abuses take place!

mnader113 karma

Do you have any suggestions for athletes who are interested in competing in the Olympics?

anitadefrantz6 karma

Hi mnader11,

First, choose your sport. If you are in the US, the USOPC (United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee) also has a website giving information on the various Olympic national governing Bodies, NGBs, and more.

Each sport has its own qualities for success so it is not possible for me to generalize. What I recall from my training and competition is that I worked harder than I ever thought I could. And, for my final race at the 1976 Games, I worked as hard as I could without dying in the attempt.

For example, I was in Law school from 1974 to 1977. I worked at night interviewing defendants before they had their bail hearings. Then, I went to practice at 6 AM, then to law school by 9 AM, often had weightlifting at noon, or ran stadiums, then back to the boathouse for PM practice and then back to the police headquarters to earn money to eat. My diet was whatever I could afford. Usually pot pies and barley groats!

If you want to be an Olympic Champion - be prepared to work your butt off, and more. No compromises.

luckystars1432 karma

Have you ever felt you were treated differently as a women, positive or negatively? If negatively, how did you handle it?

anitadefrantz6 karma

Hi luckystars,

Yes, and add to that, the skin tone factor. By requiring that I am respected is how I deal with that. Yes, too often when I made a point, it would only be heard after a man said the same thing, to which I would add, I am so glad that XXX agrees with me. I am working so that lack of respect for women will be a thing of the distant ugly past.

Free_Hat_McCullough2 karma

What did you have for breakfast today?

anitadefrantz5 karma

Hi Mr. Free Hat!

I made an egg omelet with cheese and vegetables, and treated myself with hot chocolate this morning!

Muthafuckaaaaa2 karma

What's your favorite sandwich?

anitadefrantz2 karma

Hi MuthaF-----. Thanks for your question :)

My favorite sandwich is a smores sandwich, as it contains my favorite Vitamin C (chocolate)!

Iskaffa2 karma

Why was there only 1 medal for all three climbing disciplines the athletes will be competing in?

I'm not going to go into detail why it's not a smart move, but I want to know why? I can't imagine it is much harder to have 3 seperate medals.

Anyways I'm very thankful for this AMA

anitadefrantz2 karma

Hello Iskaffa!

Unfortunately, I am not aware of the particulars of this decision off of the top of my head. However, this information can be found upon further investigation of the program description. For now, thanks for your question and of your support of the Olympics!

Aikidomam2 karma

I have a few questions I hope you have time to answer.

  1. Do you think mind sports such as chess will ever take place in the Olympics?

  2. With the rising controversy of transgender athletes, would it be possible for the Olympic Committee to push for more mixed-sex competitions?

  3. The paralympics have had a long controversial relationship with the Olympics. Do you think there's a chance some kind of cooperation between the two organizations can happen so both events are guaranteed fair treatment?

  4. Obviously the committee and sports organizations can only do so much to stop steroid use. But as a former athlete yourself do you think prevalence of steroids in top level athletes has had a negative effect the way people look at sports and exercise in general?

  5. What are the requirements for a new sport to be added?

anitadefrantz2 karma

Hi AikidoMam,

Thanks for your questions!

  1. About chess, I don’t know. They are part of the mind games category and respected for the challenges they pose. However, there is not much room on the program now for new events in this category. eSports and eGames also fall into this consideration.
  2. Our main goal is safe and fair sports. I do go more into the transgender issue in other answers (please search for them in the AMA). We do have more events that include women and men: equestrian, and some events in sailing, as well as relays in triathlon, etc.
  3. We have excellent cooperation. The Paralympic event is a part of the host city agreement when hosting the OGs and the OWGs. Since last year, there is a joint marketing agreement so we are working together to enhance their funding. The structure of the IPC is different because in many nations, it is not a sports movement but a social integration effort. The president of the IPC has been elected to IOC membership, so all in all, we are traveling the same road.
  4. Most athletes compete with integrity. Now, we have the means to find those who don’t - thanks to changes in IOC testing procedures and new technologies. Occasionally, governments seek to use their athletes as proof of their excellence, as was the case with the Soviets. That generally does not end well. I hope that athletes that learn of doping by others will speak up to help save sport and the competitors’ lives. Each time I watch our bronze medal race, we cross the finish line third. We know that first and second had dope to help them. To answer your question, doping and drugs in sport has definitely harmed public perception of sport, which is a personal peeve of mine.
  5. I cannot recite them, but the Olympic charter sets out the requirements, also found on www.olympic.org.

Mochachinostarchip2 karma

As a human rights activist how are you addressing the human trafficking that always surrounds global events like the Olympic Games?

There must be resources available to the Olympic Committee to mitigate the effects of human trafficking and raise awareness worldwide to a serious problem.

anitadefrantz2 karma

Hello Mocha,

Thanks for the question.

One of my personal goals is to end modern day slavery, which includes trafficking. It is assumed that sports events attract traffickers probably because it used to be men’s clubs that attracted this type of atrocity.

We need everyone to be vigilant and understand that in today's world, this is often out in the open. Providing information on what and how it is likely to appear may be one of the better deterrents.

Besides the IOC's educational outreach about this issue and others, we have our own system of security at Olympic Events, and besides that, we report all known wrongful activity to local and international law enforcement.

Ryzonnn2 karma

Is there anything you haven't done that you want to do?

anitadefrantz2 karma

Hey Ryzonnn,

That list is very long! First, I want us to stop using the word race. We are one race, the human race. We are all the same and each of us is unique. I believe in this idea so deeply that it's on the top of my website. Use of the word race became a convenient way to decide that others may be different and inferior. This needs to end!

Beyond this, I've always wanted to write a motivational self help book for people, to learn what I have in my life as I turned life challenges into victories. I believe that the only person that can change your life, is you. There are many things that the Olympic Games can teach the layperson about training, persistence, and belief in one's self. I've previously written a memoir, but I'd like to author a totally different kind of book in the future. Time will tell!

Ronin_Around1 karma

Yesterday I was reading that the Olympics were originally performed in the nude, with the exception of a belt, while being lathered in oil. Can you confirm this? Do you know what the purpose of the oil or the belt was?

anitadefrantz5 karma

Interesting question, Ronin!

During the Ancient Olympic games, after a woman cleverly disguised herself with clothing in order to be able to coach her son, in an early fashion statement, the authorities required competition and coaching would be without clothing. On the issue of a belt, I had not heard that, but other than for wrestling or for keeping mens' "things" in place, that would seem to not be in compliance with the non clothing concept.

As for oil, yes, that seemed to be a common thing. It was very hot, so maybe that helped, but others have written it was more likely a bit of doping depending on which oil mixture was applied.

Following this, if you were found to have broken the rules, a statue was built so your shame would be for everyone to see.