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64-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

By Sheri Cioroslan | June 29, 2014, 5 p.m. (ET)

Day 64, June 29 - The President’s Views on the Ban of Speed Glue, Part I

“I tried to convince all the players I coached NOT to use such glues.” 

Today let’s follow up on the presentation Dr. Amen brought up yesterday. How did you feel about the total ban of speed glue during your presidency?

I prefer not to refer to it as “speed” glue. This is a general misnomer generated by the players and officials to make a distinction between the “regular” glue and the glue that provided extra speed in the early 1970s. In fact, at that time, both types of glues were “toxic” glues. So, I prefer to talk about Toxic Glue, which means glue that has toxic solvents in the form of Volatile Organic Compounds, better known as VOCs.

As we all know this type of performance enhancing toxic glue was introduced to table tennis by accident. When Tibor Klampar of Hungary ran out of the regular toxic glue, his brother gave him bicycle glue (very toxic, containing Hexane and other very toxic VOCs). The effect of this new type of glue was miraculous. Klampar’s topspin improved tremendously, so did his sidespin loops, and he even started to topspin soon off the bounce, which was a novelty. He tried to keep this bicycle glue a secret but the sound the racket made using this glue gave him away; and soon his team-mates in Hungary, as well as other top players from Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and many other countries, started using the bicycle glue. It was later made under TT manufacturers’ brand names.

Having good knowledge of Chemistry and VOCs, as a player I never used anything other than water-based glue. In fact, the toxic VOC glues were not known in Canada (or Egypt before) as glues to be used for table tennis. We all used regular water-based glues. I even never used the glues provided by the table tennis manufacturers later because the smell gave me a feeling of nausea and dizziness.

When I was 18-years-old in Montreal, I was preparing for the Canada Winter Games (CWG) as well as the selection for the Nagoya 1971 World Championships.  The province I would represent at the CWG, Quebec, hired a top international coach to prepare the Quebec team. Through Hungarian local connections, they hired the world-famous Ferenc Sido. At the first practice, the first thing Mr. Sido did was to look at my racket and ask me what kind of glue I was using. I told him that I used normal everyday type water-based glue. He took my racket and gave me another racket instead with the rubber already affixed. He said, “Try this.”

Wow! My topspin improved 100% and my sidespin loop (the speciality of the Hungarians Klampar and Jonyer at that time) was hooking like a semi-circle. But I did not like the feeling for short play and blocking.

I asked him what he did to this racket or to the rubber. “Nothing,” he said, “I just used this bicycle glue, like we do in Europe.” I looked at the black and yellow chequered tube, opened it and smelled it.  Double WOW!! It smelled bad and the VOCs were fuming out of the small tube. I looked at the ingredients, and as I was reading, I saw Hexane, Toluene, etc.  I just gave Mr. Sido the tube and the racket back.  “No, Sir, this is not for me,” I told him.

I never used toxic glue ever again. Later on, during my coaching career, when toxic glue became the norm, I tried to convince all the players I coached NOT to use such glues. Eventually I even disallowed this type of glue (a kind of voluntary ban by the players themselves) due to the harmful effects of such toxic glues. 

Koji KimuraI did not forget that your question was regarding my feeling of the total ban of toxic glues during my presidency. Well, I will get into that tomorrow in much more detail, so stay tuned. I will tell you about the period before my presidency, the warning we received from scientists and doctors, the Draeger Tube era, the Kim Taek Soo incident, and my great awakening after reading Dr. Daniel Amen’s books, reports and studies on the brain. I will also tell you why I am thankful to the Japan TT Association, why we should all be eternally grateful to Mr. Koji Kimura of Japan, and how some ITTF officials and top players would have rather favoured enhanced technical performance to the risk of damaged brains. I will also tell you my candid opinion of the decision made by the ITTF Board of Directors in Zagreb in 2007. And much more! But you have to wait until tomorrow.

Thank you very much!  Again, you are sharing more information that is new to many of us.  So, we will stay tuned for the conclusion tomorrow.