Court opens door to East German doping trials

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The Independent Online

Germany's highest federal court paved the way for a new wave of East German doping cases by saying the statute of limitations does not apply in cases where athletes were given steroids unknowingly as minors.

Germany's highest federal court paved the way for a new wave of East German doping cases by saying the statute of limitations does not apply in cases where athletes were given steroids unknowingly as minors.

The ruling may lead to charges against some 50 coaches, doctors and officials of the former East Germany sports system, involving some 150 alleged victims.

Performance-enhancing drugs permeated the former East Germany sports system, which systematically produced star athletes and one of the world's best Olympics programs.

The Leipzig court's ruling came in the rejection of an appeal by Bernd Pansold, a former East German doctor convicted and fined £5,000 for giving performance-enhancing drugs to nine underage athletes between 1975-84.

Pansold was forced to resign in December at the Obertauern training center in Austria - where ski star Hermann Maier trains - because of his East German doping past.

The Leipzig court upheld Pansold's conviction, saying the 10 year statute of limitations did not apply in cases where deliberate bodily harm was inflicted on minors.

A rush of cases have been filed in German courts recently - including charges against the two top East German sports officials, Manfred Ewald, the sports chief, and medical director Manfred Hoeppner - because of concerns about the statute of limitations. Oct. 3 will mark 10 years after German unification.

The trial for the two sports officials, who face 142 charges of inflicting bodily harm, starts May 2 in Berlin.

Another group of seven top athletes plan to file charges, with several reportedly claiming birth defects in their children are linked to the steroids.

Courts so far have handed down fines and suspended sentences - but no jail terms - against nine former sports officials for involvement in doping.

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