Former swimming champion Karen König says she was unwittingly doped so she would win medals for East Germany. She says the steroids have caused lasting damage and is suing the German Olympic Committee.
Karen König says the drugs have led to a host of health problems
The court in Berlin began on Tuesday hearing witnesses in the case of the former European swimming champion who claims the performance-enhancing drugs she was given while a child in training have led to weight gain, clinical depression and could lead to future liver damage.
König, who won the European championships in 1984, says from the age of 11 she was given pills by her trainers, who told her they were vitamins which would help her recover from demanding training sessions.
While she is asking for just over 10,000 euros ($12,040) from the German Olympic Committee (NOK), her case is being watched closely. If she wins, it could lead to at least 137 other former athletes to press for claims and cost the cash-strapped Olympic organization to pay damages in the range of 1.5 million euros.
East German secret police files show that NOK representatives were involved in the doping program and the former head of the committee was convicted in connection with doping five years ago.
König originally brought the complaint forward two years ago, but a Frankfurt court postponed the case, saying it needed to hear more evidence.
Extensive doping program
Andreas Krieger was once a woman and was fed male sex hormones as a performance booster
East Germany engaged widespread doping in the 1970s and 1980s to bring home as much gold as possible from the Olympic Games. Winning medals was seen more than just proof of superior sporting ability, it was considered an indication of a superior political system.
One of Tuesday's witness was Dorit Rösler, a doctor who in the 1980s worked with the König's TSC Berlin swimming association, took the stand, saying that for five years she participated in giving athletes anabolic steroids. However, she could not confirm that König showed any negative effects from the drugs during that period.
Günter Paul, a press representative for the NOK told reporters that the testimony, which was not made public, did not prove that König's heath problems were directly associated with the doping.
The NOK argues that other sports associations were more involved with the doping program that it was. It also claims the current organization, which is based on the former West German association, should not be held liable for the actions of the East German group. In a related case, a court in Hamburg this month is due to start hearing the case of 190 former East German athletes, who are suing the pharmaceutical company Jenapharm. Now owned by Schering, Jenapharm manufactured the Oral-Turinabol steroid that many young athletes were given in the GDR era. Lawyers in the case are hoping for up to 12 million euros ($14.4 million) in compensation.