Heptathlete Birgit Dressel : An Athlete Dying Young

In the 1984 Olympics, she came in ninth. In the 1986 European Championships, she came in fourth. In 1987, at the age of 26, West German heptathlete Birgit Dressel was dead, the victim of her body's reaction to the profusion of drugs she took in order to be a great competitor.

Her story is a singularly horrible one, but the behavior that cost Dressel her life is by no means unique. Dressel died in a Mainz hospital, after three days of agonizing pain, because of a rare massive allergic reaction to the combination of drugs she took -- as many as...

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