Just a few days ahead of the Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Germany's ice skating community is embroiled in a scandal as one coach allegedly worked for the East German secret police.
It's still unclear whether Steuer (center) will join Savchenko and Szolkowy in Turin
Ingo Steuer looks set to accompany Aljona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy to Italy, but he might have to as a private person and not in his capacity as the couple's coach. Steuer -- himself a 1997 pairs world champion and 1998 Olympic bronze medalist -- has been accused of working as an informant for the Stasi, the East German secret police.
Ingo Steuer has not much to smile about these days
Under the name Torsten, he allegedly supplied Stasi officials with information about other ice skaters, including Katarina Witt, from 1985 to 1989.
The issue is one that German sports asssociations have grappled with since reunification as many top athletes and sports functionaries from the former East Germany had some involvement with the Stasi.
Olympic registratio n despite ba n
Steuer and his partner, Mandy Wötzel, during their performance at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan
As a result, an independent review board has been set up to evaluate people's roles. The body recommended leaving Steuer behind, leading Germany's national Olympic committee (NOK) to ban Steuer from attending the Games in an official function.
A Berlin court, however, has since granted Steuer an injunction, prompting the NOK to register him as a delegate.
The 39-year-old soldier himself has acknowledged contacts with the Stasi, but has said that he cannot understand why the matter is now surfacing.
"What's happening to me is crazy," Steuer told dpa news service, adding that his charges are suffering as a result.
Will medal hopefuls skate?
Savchenko and Szolkowy, who took home silver at the European Championships in Lyon in mid-January, stand a good chance to receive medals in Turin as well. But the couple has been ambiguous about whether it would skate without Steuer nearby.
Aljona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy during the European Championships in Lyon on Jan. 18
"The situtation is very difficult for us," Szolkowy told dpa.
Officials for Germany's ice skating association (DEU) are now hoping that a compromise may still be found before the competition starts on Feb. 11.
"Of course we want that the coach will be there, even if he's only there in private," Udo Dönsdorf, the DEU's sports director, told sid news service. "He has the best relationship with his couple and can help them the best."
A final decision may come after Steuer's Stasi files are released on Feb. 8.