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.

Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor