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East German Doping Detailed in Documents : Steroids: Widespread program included seven Olympic gold medalists. Drug efficiency tested on children in sports camps.

September 07, 1991|MARC FISHER | WASHINGTON POST

BERLIN — According to confidential government documents, East Germany fed steroids to virtually all of its Olympic track and field stars throughout the 1980s, a time when it dominated many events.

The list of East German athletes enrolled in a long-term, state-sponsored steroids program includes seven Olympic gold medalists and several athletes still active for the reunited Germany, the documents say.

Although evidence of the East German doping program has been seeping out for more than a year, the documents offer a detailed account of the system. Reams of documents in which East German sports physicians detailed how different drugs and dosages improved performance reveal a carefully developed program designed to boost the country's medal count while hiding the illegal use of drugs.

East Germans won 10 gold medals in the 1983 and 1987 World Track and Field Championships, dominating both. At last week's championships in Tokyo, however, the combined German team won only five gold medals. Germany initiated a strict drug-testing program earlier this year.

"The government took control of the bodies of children as if they were its personal property," said Werner Franke, a Heidelberg biologist. Franke, one of a group of researchers sent by the united government to review the state of eastern Germany's research institutes, found many of the doping documents at an East German military academy.

Among the athletes who allegedly took steroids are four 1988 Olympic gold-medal winners--discus throwers Juergen Schult and Martina Hellmann, javelin thrower Petra Felke and shotputter Ulf Timmermann. The records show that sprinter and long jumper Heike Drechsler, who represented united Germany in Tokyo last week, achieved her 1984 world record jump of 23 feet 11 inches with the help of an annual dose of 835 milligrams of the anabolic steroid Oral-Turinabol.

The latest evidence of East German sports doping comes in part from a previously secret doctoral dissertation by a sports physician involved in the steroid program. The paper details how young athletes, without knowing what they were ingesting, were given steroids by trainers.

"They just were told to take one blue one, one yellow one and so forth," Franke said. He said athletes were forbidden to talk to their parents about the drugs they were given or to consult outside doctors for any medical problem.

The documents show East Germany used steroids to improve performances by sprinters, hurdlers, decathletes and specialists in virtually every track and field event. The athletes were given drugs for years, often beginning when they were 14. Girls were fed male steroids to boost their performance in swimming and track.

Charts showing the dosages administered to each athlete reveal that some East German women were given 10 times the steroids that American athletes have acknowledged taking, or twice the annual dosage that sprinter Ben Johnson said he used.

East German physicians knew that the steroids were causing severe side effects, the records show. Sprinter Kerstin Behrendt's liver was damaged by two steroids, but sports officials continued to administer the drugs because she was an irreplaceable member of the 400-meter relay team.

Because scientists did not know which drugs worked best for each sport and which could most efficiently be hidden from Olympic and other international drug tests, they conducted long-term experiments on the children who lived in East Germany's sports camps.

Hundreds of these children, as young as 6, were groomed for competition and chosen for body types considered promising by coaches and sports scientists, former directors of East German sports centers said. The doping program even identified youngsters who could not metabolize steroids, and those were removed from the elite program.

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