The drug victims: The little blue pills and the ugly aftermath that haunt the casualties of the state's greed for gold

Suicide, chronic disease and crippled lives are the legacy of East Germany's relentless pursuit of medals. Now some of the victims are breaking their silence, denouncing the officials who fed them the pills. Imre Karacs reports from Bonn.

The record books state that the gold medal for the women's shot putt in the 1986 European championships in Stuttgart was won by Heidi Krieger, with a throw of 21.10 metres. She was 21and at the pinnacle - it later transpired - of her career.

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" were wrapped in silver paper, and seemed to help her gain strength. As the weights she lifted daily in the club gym increased, so did the size of the pills. Still, she asked no questions. She was somewhat surprised when the sports doctor prescribed her contraceptive pills, even though she was completely innocent in matters of sex, but took them obediently as well.

After her triumph in Stuttgart, Krieger's body began to rebel against the punishment. Her back was aching all the time, her knee and hips had to be operated on. In 1987 she was taking five of the blue pills a day, yet still came only fourth in the World Championships.

By now she was aching all over. The muscles she used to be so proud of no longer felt like her own. She suddenly felt trapped in a body that was not hers, abandoned women's clothes and started to feel embarrassed about going into the women's lavatory. She felt like 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 a record amount of testosterone: two and a half times the amount recommended in East German sports scientists' secret manuals. The contraceptives - a cocktail of female hormones - were administered in order to maintain a semblance of femininity.

But a man she was, and last year 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. The male organ is yet to be built, but "Mr" Krieger is happy none the less. At least he is alive, in a body to which he can now relate.

Several former East German athletes have committed suicide, and hundreds more are thought to be suffering various drug-related ailments. Catherine Menschner, a 33-year old former swimmer, is not certain whether it was the drugs or the strenuous training which literally broke her back. Now she cannot even lift her eight-year old child.

An estimated 2,000 athletes were given performance-enhancing drugs in the 1970s and 1980s. Even seven years after the disappearance of East Germany, many medallists are maintaining silence over the drugs they received. But some are beginning to speak out. A questionnaire sent out by Berlin prosecutors investigating doping practices has been filled out and returned by some 600 victims. Their complaints are textbook cases of steroid abuse: liver and kidney damage, impotence, severe emotional problems.

With the help of their testimonies, the prosecutors hope to put away a few of those supplying drugs. At the end of last year, four former East German swimming coaches were charged with causing bodily harm. Two of them, Dieter Lindemann and Volker Frischke, were hired by the German Swimming Federation after unification but had been recently suspended because of the investigation. For the moment, many other trainers remain at large, coaching the national squad for another successful Olympics.

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Extras
indybest

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Life and Style
news

As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”

Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Network Engineer - CCNP, Hedge Fund, London

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer - CCNP, Hedge Fu...

Senior Network Engineer-CCIE, Multicast, Low Latency

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-CCIE, Mul...

Network Infrastructure Engineer

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Infrastructure Engineer (...

Network Engineer (CCNP, BGP, Multicast)

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, BGP, Mult...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition