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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
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

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London