Ex-official: East German teen athletes doped

Teenage athletes were subjected to doping under communist East Germany's vast programme of steroid abuse, a leading former sports official has admitted in his new book.

Ex-official: East German teen athletes doped
Photo: DPA

Thomas Köhler, former vice president of the East German sports association DTSB, is the first high-ranking member of the defunct communist state’s sporting establishment to acknowledge that minors were also doped.

“When athletes participated (in doping programmes) from the age of 16, it was primarily done when their biological maturity was established,” Köhler wrote in the book “The Two Sides of the Medal,” to be published this week.

Doping “had been planned for select elite athletes, who were generally adults.

“There were exceptions, however, for example in swimming – a sport where the optimum age is lower. But the only athletes included were those who were among the best and had several years of training behind them,” he wrote.

Köhler, himself a two-time Olympic luge champion in 1964 and 1968, said that cheating was “the only way for East Germany to hold its own at the international level.”

The 70-year-old said that the communist officials had the interest of their athletes at heart, with 90 sports doctors employed to monitor their health.

“The distribution of medication (steroids) occurred under the closest observation by medical doctors performing their duties,” he insisted, disputing scientific evidence that athletes suffered ill effects from the little blue pills.

The East German state established a vast, systematic doping programme in the 1970s using Turinabol, an anabolic steroid which encourages muscle growth and allowed the country to excel in swimming, athletics and cycling.

During the 20-year period East Germany competed, the small country of 16 million people won 519 medals at 11 Olympic games, 192 of which were gold.

To achieve this success, the state ensured its athletes had the best available facilities and equipment, coaching and medical check-ups, psychological testing and dietary supplements.

But it was the scale of state-sponsored doping – known as State Plan 14.25 – that set East Germany apart and was only brought to an end after the collapse of communism when the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989.

It is estimated some 10,000 athletes were part of the doping programme which even involved the Stasi, the state’s secret police service, to make sure competitors took Turinabol – many allegedly without their knowledge.

The after-effects of large-scale doping only came to light later, with victims suffering from a host of disorders including cancer and sterility.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Nurse weeps as tells German court of her blood doping role

A nurse, one of the co-defendants in the trial of a German sports doctor accused of masterminding an international blood-doping network, described on Friday how she helped athletes dope with illicit blood transfusions.

Nurse weeps as tells German court of her blood doping role
Mark Schmidt talks to his lawyer in court. Photo: Peter Kneffel/AFP
Sports physician Mark Schmidt, 42, and four co-defendants who allegedly aided him, stand trial in Munich accused of helping at least two dozen athletes undergo blood transfusions to boost performance.
So far, 23 athletes — mainly skiers and cyclists — from eight countries are known to be involved.
If found guilty, Schmidt and his co-defendants face jail for up to 10 years under anti-doping legislation introduced in Germany in 2015.
One of the accused, named only as Diana S., told the court how she first helped Schmidt in December 2017 when she travelled to Dobbiaco, Italy, to administer a blood transfusion before a skiing competition.
Blood doping is aimed at boosting the number of red blood cells, which allows the body to transport more oxygen to muscles, thereby increasing stamina and performance.
“It was about transportation, blood and athletes, but at first I didn't know what was behind it,” she is quoted as saying by the German media.   
“The treatments were always such that before the race the blood was taken in and after the races, the blood came out.”
She claimed to have been given precise instructions “via WhatsApp or by phone calls” where to go, which car to take, who to treat and how much blood to take or inject.
The trained nurse, who often sobbed while speaking, was told to dispose the bags of used blood on her way home after the “treatments”.
The single mother of three said she was motivated to earn extra money, having been told she would earn 200 euros ($237) per day.
At one point, she claims she told Schmidt that she wanted to stop.
“I told him that I was too agitated and too scared” to keep doing the clandestine work, because a sense of “panic travelled with me”, but Schmidt convinced her to stay involved. “It is also true that I simply had a shortage of money.”
Schmidt is alleged to have helped skiers who competed at both the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics and cyclists who raced at the 2016 Rio summer Olympics, as well as the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a Espana.
He was arrested in Germany as part of Operation “Aderlass” — or “blood letting” in German — which involved raids at the Nordic world skiing championships in Seefeld, Austria in February 2019.
A verdict in the trial is expected by late December.