'Hormone Heidi' confronts East German ghosts

The secret of communist East Germany's sporting prowess is well known: the dope pushers have been filing into courtrooms for years. Yet the sports officials and doctors who pumped young athletes full of anabolic steroids always walk out as free men. They had "only been following orders".

That may change now, for sitting in the dock yesterday atcourt number 38 in Berlin was no less a figure than Manfred Ewald, the communist functionary who headed East Germany's sporting establishment. And this time the victims, medal winners who lost their health in the Communists' quest for gold, will have their say.

The trial of 73-year-old Mr Ewald, the former head of the East German Olympic Committee, and of Manfred Höppner, the doctor who masterminded the doping regime, was to have lasted one day. That is what happened on previous occasions, with the judges dismissing the testimony of athletes as irrelevant. But it looks as though the script has been altered, in view of Mr Ewald's undeniable responsibility for what went on in East German sport. He had, after all, written an autobiography five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall with the title I Was Sport.

Mr Ewald and the doctor are charged with 142 cases of grievous bodily harm. Mr Ewald has so far pleaded not guilty, and sat through the first day of proceedings looking sternly ahead, not uttering a word. Dr Höppner is pleading guilty in the hope of a light sentence.

More than 30 athletes are trying to have their say as joint plaintiffs. Eighteen of them were in court yesterday.

"You cannot just treat this case like shoplifting," said their lawyer, Michal Lehner, outraged by the court's plan to wrap up the proceedings in a day.

The presiding judge relented, and the swimmers, gymnasts and athletes will be able to tell their harrowing stories and confront their tormentors in court.

The shot-putter formerly known as Heidi Krieger has been waiting for this moment for years. She won the gold medal in the 1986 European championships in Stuttgart at the age of 21 and was crippled shortly afterwards by pain.

Ms Krieger had been training hard since the age of 13. When she was 16, she started receiving the little blue pills from her coach. These "vitamins", wrapped in silver paper, seemed to help her gain strength. As the weights she lifted daily increased, so did the size of the pills.

After her triumph in Stuttgart, Ms Krieger's body began to rebel. Her back ached continuously, her knee and hips required surgery. In 1987 she was taking five of the blue pills a day but only came fourth in the world championships.

By now she was aching all over. The muscles she had been so proud of no longer felt like her own. She seemed trapped in a body that was not hers: she abandoned women's clothes and started to feel embarrassed about going into the women's lavatory. She felt as if she was a man.

She only discovered why several years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. "Hormone Heidi" - as she had been known to her coaches - had been fed huge doses of testosterone: two and a half times the amount recommended in East German sports scientists' secret manuals.

At the end of her broken career, Ms Krieger was a man. Three years ago she completed the metamorphosis, in as much as that is biologically feasible. After another course of testosterone to complete the job, Heidi's breasts, womb and ovaries were removed, and the person emerging from the operating theatre took up the name of Andreas.

He is lucky to be reasonably healthy. Several former East German athletes have committed suicide and hundreds more are thought to be suffering drug-related ailments.

Catherine Menschner, a 33-year-old former swimmer, is not certain whether it was the drugs or the strenuous training that literally broke her back. Now she cannot lift her child.

An estimated 2,000 athletes were given performance-enhancing drugs in the Seventies and Eighties. A decade after the disappearance of East Germany, many medallists are maintaining silence over the medication they received but hundreds have co-operated with the Berlin prosecutors investigating doping practices. Their complaints are text-book cases of steroid abuse: liver and kidney damage, impotence, severe emotional problems.

Mr Ewald, who began his political career in the Nazi Party and switched to the Communists after the war, no longer boasts about his omnipotence.He is silent. He cannot very well say he was following orders. Everybody else followed his.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Louis van Gaal
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own