Swimming: East German coaches fined

THE FORMER head of East Germany's swimming federation and two coaches were given suspended prison terms by a Berlin court yesterday for their participation in the communist state's systematic doping policy.

The former German Swimming Sport Federation general secretary, Egon Muller, the head coach, Wolfgang Richter, and women's coach, Jurgen Tanneberger, were each sentenced to a suspended one-year prison term and fined DM5,000 (pounds 1,650).

Several doctors and coaches have been tried already but Muller was the first leading former East German official to go to court. The 73-year- old and the two coaches stood accused of causing bodily harm to female swimmers, some under-aged, by administering anabolic steroids between 1975 and 1989.

Prosecutors said the swimmers, some of whom still suffered from gynaecological disorders, were not informed that they were being given performance-enhancing drugs.

Muller was involved in 67 cases, Richter in 62 cases and Tanneberger in 48 cases, prosecutors added.

All three admitted the charges, lawyers said. Tanneberger was the only one of the defendants to express regret in court, saying he was sorry if he had harmed the swimmers.

According to a recent study some 10,000 East German athletes were given banned substances, including steroids, under a state-ordered programme which started in 1968 and lasted until German unification in 1990.

The first trial to put the system under the spotlight ended in December last year in Berlin. Two doctors and one coach involved in swimming were convicted and fined while the three other defendants had their cases dropped after they paid fines.

About 500 doctors, coaches and officials from other sports, notably athletics, are under investigation and more trials are certain to follow.