West Germany cultivated culture of doping: study

‘SYSTEMIC’::As researchers investigated allegations of government-backed doping, they were denied access to some archives and found key files had been destroyed


Wed, Aug 07, 2013 - Page 18

The former West German government tolerated and covered up a culture of doping among its athletes for decades, even going so far as to encourage it from the 1970s, according to a comprehensive study released on Monday.

Published by the German Federal Institute of Sport Science (BISp) after some details were disclosed in a newspaper article over the weekend, the 501-page report titled Doping in Germany from 1950 to today accuses the institute of a central role in a government-backed attempt to dope athletes for success.

The report states that the BISp, which was formed under the jurisdiction of the West German Ministry of the Interior in 1970, attempted to establish “systemic doping under the guise of basic research.”

While West German government control over sport was not comparable with that of the then-East Germany, the authors of the report state: “The participation of many national coaches, sports doctors and officials was in a manner conspicuously similar to the systematic doping system of the GDR [German Democratic Republic].”

Thomas Bach, an International Olympic Committee (IOC) vice president from Germany who is running for president of the Olympic body, said an independent commission had been set up to evaluate the report and make recommendations.

“This is a good day for the fight against doping,” he said.

The study, conducted by researchers under the leadership of Giselher Spitzer at Berlin’s Humboldt University with another team based at the University of Muenster, was completed in April, but publication had been postponed due to issues over publishing names.

Pressure to publish the full document grew after the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper released some details from the report on Saturday. However, names of athletes appear to have been withheld from the final report.

Sueddeutsche reported on its Web site that many details were missing, including names of influential politicians and numerous eyewitness accounts.

The newspaper said its version of Humboldt University’s substantive report had 804 pages, but only a fraction of those were published.

The report that was released says there was no systematic, state-led doping system before the BISp was established, but that its formation led to “a gradual adaptation to the GDR sports system.”

It says that while some athletes and coaches were opposed to doping, they rarely came forward “as they thought they wouldn’t be listened to due to the popularity of doping coaches, athletes and doctors in the media.”

The investigation was initiated by the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) in 2008 and commissioned by the BISp, which provided about 525,000 euros (US$700,000) toward the study. Bach is the current president of the DOSB.

“The history of doping in the Federal Republic didn’t start in 1970 ... but already in 1949 [with the establishment of West Germany],” the report states.

Researchers found that the methamphetamine Pervitin, which had been used by German soldiers during World War II, was tested extensively in the 1950s despite being banned.

Amphetamines remained in extensive use across many German sports, including cycling and athletics, until 1960, the report says.

It quotes Goettingen physician and former soccer player Heinz-Adolf Heper’s assertion from 1949 that amphetamine-related substances had already become “normal” in German soccer toward the end of the decade.

The BISp began developing “systemic doping structures” in 1972, financing experiments to “improve” anabolic steroids, conducting extensive research on testosterone, estrogen, hormones, growth hormones and insulin, it said.

Cologne doctor and professor Wildor Hollmann, who spoke against the use of anabolic steroids on health and ethical grounds, was financed by the BISp to investigate the “influence of blood transfusions” in 1973. The results revealed a “possible doping effect,” according to a BISp file from 1991.

Work with the blood-booster EPO began on March 11, 1988 — two weeks after the Winter Olympics in Calgary, following rumors that Soviet cross-country skiers had used it to improve their performances.

The historians uncovered a letter from FIFA medical committee chairman Mihailo Andrejevic regarding “very fine traces” of the banned stimulant ephedrine that had been found in three unnamed West Germany players at the 1966 World Cup.

The German soccer federation refused access to its archives, the report says.

The researchers also struggled to access official documents covered by a 30-year secrecy rule, and Spitzer told broadcaster RBB Inforadio that all the important files related to doping were destroyed before the project could begin.

Files did reveal that anabolic steroids were being used by West German athletes as early as 1960. Sports organizations played down studies showing the serious side effects of steroids.

Researchers said that effective controls were only introduced in the late 1980s, and that doping was prevalent even after 1991.

A detailed analysis of the period up to 2008 was not possible, the report says, “due to complexity.”