Tainted Blood

In a nearly forgotten incident, eight members of the US cycling team blood doped their way to nine medals at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the first U.S. cycling medals since the 1912 Olympic Games.

Was the use of illicit blood transfusions wrong?

Told through the eyes former Olympic athletes, including Olympic cycling silver medalist Nelson Vails and world champion Inga Thompson, along with Olympic coaches, cycling officials, physicians, sports historians, and sports journalists, Tainted Blood explores the secret world where athletes push themselves to the precipice, and are coerced by coaches with their own Olympic fueled dreams, to win at all costs—no matter what the consequences.

  • Jill Yesko
  • Jill Yesko
  • Betsy Andreu
    Key Cast
  • Inga Thompson
    Key Cast
  • Dave Grylls
    Key Cast
  • Nelson Vails
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    sports, investigative journalism, olympics, doping, cycling, medicine, drugs
  • Runtime:
    58 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    May 5, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    75,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Jill Yesko

Filmmaker and journalist Jill Yesko
is a former cyclist who represented the United States in the 1983 World University Games and competed in the Olympic Trials. Her writing has appeared in Women's Sports & Fitness, Shape, Fitness Swimmer, and numerous other magazines. Tainted Blood is her first documentary.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

As a former national class cyclist who lived and competed in Los Angeles during the 1984 Olympics, I was aware of a dark secret--that cyclists were using illicit blood transfusions carried out in a cheap motel in order to gain advantage to win medals.

More than 30 years and more than 30 doping scandals later (Lance Armstrong that most well known), cycling and sports continue to be plagued by athletes, coaches, and countries like Russia who are determined to cheat.

As a woman athlete and filmmaker I was particularly interested in having former Olympian and world champion cyclist Inga Thompson talk about her experiences of sexism and harassment when she stood up to doping. It's an important lesson in courage for all athletes.

What makes my story unique is my access to the athletes who with unblinking honesty tell the story of how and why they chose to dope (or not to dope). I've found that all doping scandals have follow a similar pattern of denial, cover up, and calls for reform.

I am proud to say that I discovered a story that had been buried for decades which, as a journalist, is always exciting.

With every day bringing a new sports doping scandal, it's sometimes important to look back and learn from our mistakes, otherwise, we will continue to repeat them at great risk to athletes.