East Germany's sports chief in doping trial

After convicting East German coaches, doctors and other sports functionaries of systematically doping athletes for the glory of communism, prosecutors today aimed their sights at the men allegedly responsible for the top-secret program.

Manfred Ewald, the longtime East German sports chief and president of East Germany's gold medal-winning National Olympic Committee, went on trial on charges stemming from years of state-sponsored doping of young female athletes - usually without their consent or even knowledge.

On trial with him is his former medical director, Dr Manfred Hoeppner. Both are charged with 142 counts of being an accessory to causing bodily harm - the side effects of performance-enhancing drugs, ranging from excessive body hair and deep voices to liver and kidney problems.

The court scheduled only one day for testimony; a verdict could come as early as this afternoon.

Ewald and Hoeppner are the highest-ranking officials so far to face trial since Berlin prosecutors filed the first charges in 1997, using documents and other evidence found in once-secret East German government files after German unification.

Despite widespread suspicions about East German athletes over the years, few were ever caught in drug tests; files showed East German scientists also worked on avoiding detection.

But the results of the doping program that began in the 1970s were dramatic: tiny East Germany, with less than 17 million people, went from 20 gold medals in 1972 to an astounding 40 at the Montreal games in 1976. East Germans won 11 of 13 events in women's swimming in 1976 and again in 1980.

Ewald, now 73, allegedly carried the main responsibility for the state-sponsored drug program. A member of the communist party's central committee since 1963, he was president of East Germany's sports federation from 1961-88 and of its Olympics committee from 1973 until the country ceased to exist in 1990.

According to the indictment, he and Hoeppner believed anabolic steroids were needed to improve the performance of their female athletes. In October 1974, Ewald created the euphemistically named "working group - supporting methods," headed by Hoeppner but controlled by both men.

The group developed the system of administering anabolic steroids either through injections or little blue pills. The athletes - many of them still minors - and their parents were told they were taking vitamins. Hoeppner, now 66, allegedly ordered the drugs himself and distributed them to the sports doctors and coaches.

The two men also collected information about the results of the hormone preparations, including the resulting side effects, according to the indictment. According to one media report, Hoeppner suggested to Ewald in 1977 not to let female athletes who'd developed especially deep voices do television interviews anymore.

Prosecutors say many of the athletes are still suffering from side effects, including menstrual and gynecological problems and the development of male characteristics, such as excessive body hair or muscles. Thirty-two former athletes have filed their own complaints with the court.

"I can't forget what was done to me," one victim, former swimming champion Martina Gottschalk, said in this week's Super Illu magazine. "Three times a day we had to swallow little blue pills with sweetened tea. ... We were told it was vitamins, but we were doped against our will."

Gottschalk, 34, said she still suffers pains in her abdomen and has problems with her gall bladder, and also blames the steroids for her son's birth defect. He was born in 1985 with crippled feet.

Courts previously have handed down fines and suspended sentences - but no jail terms - for nine former East German sports officials for drug involvement.

In the harshest sentence so far, the former chief doctor of East Germany's swim team, Lothar Kipke, was convicted in January on 58 counts of causing bodily harm. He was fined 7,300 marks ($3,400), and received a 15-month suspended jail sentence to be served only if he violates probation.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future