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Angella Issajenko
As told to Martin O’Malley and Karen O’Reilly

Toronto, Macmillan, 1990. 235pp, cloth, $24.95
ISBN 0-7715-9120-9. CIP

Grades 11 and up/Ages 16 and up
Reviewed by Lillian M. Turner.

Volume 19 Number 1
1991 January

Issajenko's fascinating autobiography was recorded by the award-winning freelance writer Martin O'Malley, whose works have appeared in major national publications, and Karen O’Reilly, also a freelancer who has written for The Globe and Mail and CBC TV.

Issajenko's story embraces her early life in Jamaica, her introduction to track and field sports in public school, entering high school at the age of twelve, and her first serious competition a year later when she was disappointed with a second place finish. She had already become used to winning. In early 1975 she joined her mother in Toronto and won her first province-wide high school championship, a 100-metre sprint in Kingston in 1977. She met Charlie Francis that fall and joined the Scarborough Optimist Track and Field Club in January. Her international competition began that year at the Commonwealth Games in Edmonton.

Her life from 1978 to 1988 is recorded in her now famous diaries in which she made daily entries. In those ten years Issajenko became a six-time world record holder in women's indoor 60 metres, current world record holder in the 50 metres, and was ranked fourth in the world 100 metres. She had broken fifty Canadian records, was twice named female athlete of the year, and had been appointed to the Order of Canada. The diary held details of her training schedules; accounts of her pains and injuries; names of various doctors and their prescriptions of drugs, vitamins, minerals, and diet; masseurs and physiotherapists with their wonder machines; but of most importance an ongoing account of the use of perform­ance-enhancing drugs, with their effects on herself and others.

It was Issajenko's revulsion at the untruths following the Ben Johnson Seoul debacle that led to her outburst about drug use when questioned by a Toronto Sun reporter and her avowal that if invited to testify at an inquiry she would not perjure herself. The latter portion of the book deals with her three days of testimony at the Dubin inquiry, in which the diaries played an impor­tant role.

Running Risks is a recommended resource for coaches at both the amateur and professional levels and for physical and health education teachers, students and athletes. While Issajenko says that she would not take the drugs now that she has children, she advocates that performance-enhancing drugs be allowed to world class Canadian athletes and strictly monitored by a governing medical body as she claims is done in many countries. A word of caution - the language is liberally sprinkled with four-letter words. Indexed, with eight pages of photo­graphs.

Lillian M. Turner, Board of Education for the City of York, Toronto, Ont.
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