Forgotten Victims of East German Doping
The German Democratic Republic - GDR
(Deutsche Demokratische Republik - DDR) in Germany informally called East Germany by the West.
Nearly 200 athletes who were given drugs prior to competing for East Germany sought £8 million in compensation in 2005. They are the forgotten victims. For three decades, East Germans ran, swam and shot-putted their way to glory, winning Olympic gold medals, setting world records and so it seemed at the time demonstrating the superiority of communism. 190 East German competitors launched a case against the German phamaceutical giant Jenapharm. They claimed that the East German firm knowingly supplied the steroids that were given to them by trainers and coaches from the 1960's onwards, until East Germany's demise in 1989. Jenapharm now owned by Schering argued that it was not responsible for the doping scandal and blamed the communist system at that time.
The victims all received Oral-Turinabol - an anabolic steroid containing testosterone made by Jenapharm and was called the "blue bean". It had astonishing powers, accelerating muscle build up and boosting recovery times. But it had subsequent side effects that were catastrophic - infertility among women, embarrassing hair growth, breast cancer, heart problems and testicular cancer. An estimated 800 athletes developed serious ailments.
The most public face was Andreas Krieger - a shot-putter who took so many male hormones she decided to have a sex change. Rica Reinisch is another victim who has publicly spoken out, who at the age of 15 won 3 gold medals in the 1980 Olympics. "The worst thing was I didn't know I was being doped" she told the Guardian. She said she was told by the coaches that the tablets were vitamins.
In the 1972 Munich Olympics, East Germany - a country of 17 million - reached the top 3 in the medal table with the United States and the Soviet Union. Four years later, East German women won 11 out of the 13 swimming events.
In December 2006 an out of court settlement was agreed and 184 athletes were compensated with a total of 1.2 million. A week earlier the German Olympic Sports Organistation agreed to pay the same sum to 167 of the athletes.
Hundreds of coaches and officials have been indicted. Krieger testified at the trials of Manfred Ewald, president of East Germany's Olympic Committee who masterminded the system, and of Dr Manfred Hoeppner who headed the GDR sport medicine service for performance athletics from 1978 to 1989. Both were convicted of accessory to the intentional bodily harm of athletes and received suspended sentences of 22 and 18 months respectively.
The DOSB and federal government share of the cost of the settlement is just over £1 million. The government financed two thirds of it and Jenapharm also agreed to pay £109,000 to organisations helping doping victims.