Doctors admit doping East German swimmers

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The Independent Online
FORMER COACHES and doctors of East German athletes yesterday confessed that they systematically administered performance-enhancing drugs to female swimmers.

But at the opening of Germany's second doping trial against former East German sports officials, all five defendants denied knowingly damaging the health of the athletes, some of whom were as young as 12 when they started taking the pink-and-blue anabolic steroid pills.

Dr Ulrich Suender said he knew only a little about possible side-effects of steroids, and had thought they were were reversible. Suender, a second doctor and three coaches are charged with causing bodily harm to as many as 17 young female swimmers between 1978 and 1989.

One is now sterile. Others suffered such side-effects as deeper voices, serious acne and excessive hair growth.

Prosecutors say the defendants administered the drugs - without telling the minors or their parents what they were taking - as part of Communist East Germany's state-sponsored push to create Olympic champions.

Suender, 58, said he had no reservations about providing anabolic steroids in pill form to the team doctors. He denied giving steroid injections, as alleged.

Dorit Roesler, 50, a former team doctor, said she passed the drugs to the coaches, who admitted giving them to the swimmers. The former coaches, Peter Mattonet, 48, Berndt Christochowitz, 40, and Klaus Klemenz, 55, said they assumed the pills were to improve endurance. Christochowitz, who now works for an insurance firm, insisted he did not know the pills were anabolic steroids.

Roesler said the athletes had regular medical exams and nothing worrying was found.

The defendants were expected to receive suspended sentences or fines.