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
Actor Burt Reynolds last year
newsBurt Reynolds, once among the most bankable actors in Hollywood, is set to auction his memorabilia
News
Gordon and Tana Ramsay arrive at the High Court, London
newsTV chef gives evidence against his father-in-law in court case
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
films
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops
films
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
art

Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt
art

News
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
news
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

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game