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Germany

Putting The Lid On Doping

Germany is ramping up its battle against performance enhancing drugs by setting up a national anti-doping agency. Both politicians and sports organizations hope the move will eliminate the use of steroids by athletes.

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Steriods: No longer the breakfast of champions

Germany is taking the fight against doping in the professional sports world very seriously, according to Interior Minister Otto Schily. The establishment of the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) in Bonn helps Germany to "make headway in the fight against doping," he said at a ceremony marking the founding of the organization.

NADA will function as an independent institution. It will have a full-time staff of five to organize both training controls, as well as the over 3,700 tests undertaken during competitions. These were previously dealt with by individual sports federations.

The Anti-Doping Commission (ADC) of the German Sports Federation DSB and its counterpart in the National Olympic Committee will be dissolved with the creation of NADA. In the past, ADC had two employees to deal with some 4,000 training controls annually.

The federal government has provided 5.1 million euro ($5.12 million) in funding, the largest chunk of the agency's total starting capital of 6.6 million euro ($6.63 million).

The federal states and the city of Bonn have also contributed. German companies Deutsche Telekom and Deutsche Bank have pledged a million euro ($1 million) for the coming year.

Little support from the private sector

Ulrich Haas, who chaired the ADC since 1992 and will be replaced in the new organization by Peter Busse, said there was otherwise little backing from private companies.

He criticized the pharmaceutical industry for not putting a penny into NADA. He said he had sought a dialog with the sector on several occasions, but to no avail.

The motives for this behavior remained a mystery, Haas said. If a company didn't see a personal advantage in contributing funds to an agency such as NADA, it simply did not participate, he added.

Hope for more developments

In the former East Germany, athletes were often forced to take performance enhancing drugs for years on end, and last year, the government reach an agreement to provide former athletes with a total of 2 million euro ($2.045 million) in compensation. Yet, despite the international attention the East German abuses received, doping continues to be a problem for a reunified Germany. Just a few weeks ago, former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich admitted to having taken amphetamines, and wrestler Alexander Leipold lost his Sydney Olympics gold medal after he tested positive for steroid use.

The country has worked hard to overcome past doping scandals, and Haas stressed the importance that NADA will have in that effort. It will add Germany to the list of countries leading the battle against doping.

At the same time, he wished for more instruments to prosecute doping offenders, like those that exist Italy. There, taking illegal steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs is a crime. In Germany, athletes are only banned from competitions if found guilty of doping.

But there is no criminal prosecution, for example of trainers who are involved in doping. "Every once in a while, I look enviously at Italy, which possibilities it offers, in particular to proceed against people in related areas and clean up the problem at its source."

This strategy would only work in Germany under the concept of fair play. "If you look at it from a health perspective, then you have no possibilities for prosecution," he said. "Hurting yourself is just not a crime in Germany."

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