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Germany

Senior East German sports official admits young athletes were also doped

A former vice-president of the central East German sports organization has admitted that young athletes were doped in the former communist state.

A syringe with the East German flag in the background

Doping allegations have long dogged East German athletes

A leading sports official from the former East Germany has admitted that doping of young athletes took place in the communist state. Thomas Koehler is the first top official from the GDR to acknowledge the existence of such a program.

Koehler, a former vice-president of the East German umbrella sports organization, the DTSB, makes the revelations in a book to be published this week, in which he writes that officials gave performance-enhancing substances to elite athletes from the early 1970s onwards.

He says the decision was taken because other countries were also doping their top athletes.

He alleges that substance abuse in countries like the United States and the German Federal Republic (West Germany) prompted the use of "selected anabolic substances in several sports" in the East.

"If East Germany wanted to remain competitive it had no choice but to allow the use of doping substances," Koehler says in the book entitled Two Sides of the Medal.

Doping of juniors

Thomas Bach, the head of the German Olympic Sports Association

Thomas Bach has welcomed the admissions of doping

Koehler says doping was a part of "supporting methods" and only used for top adult athletes under strict supervision from officials and doctors. He also reveals that, in some cases, underage athletes were doped because in some sports, such as swimming, there is a lower average age at which athletes reach their peak.

"If athletes were involved from the age of 16 onwards, this took place with full consideration of their biological maturity and with their sports physicians bearing special responsibility," he says.

Koehler claims "there were no severe health problems or deaths in the GDR, as in other countries" because a large number of doctors were involved in the doping process.

"All substances were given to the athletes with their consent. I know of no case in which a coach or an athlete was advised from above to use doping substances. It is untrue that athletes who rejected forbidden substances lost their place on the squad," he writes.

Koehler, 70, is a two-time Olympic luge champion who later became national luge team coach. He was a member of East Germany's Olympic Committee and held a number of top sport positions in the GDR, including the vice-presidency of the DTSB from 1981 until German reunification in 1990.

Mixed response to book

Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann

Niemann-Stirnemann is adamant that some athletes were doped unawares

Thomas Bach, the head of the German Olympic Sports Association, welcomed the comments on Tuesday, saying they brought "more clarity into the reappraisal of the doping history" of the former GDR.

Bach said the doping of top athletes in East Germany was well-known, "but those responsible for sport policy in the former GDR have always largely denied it."

However, former East German sprinter and doping victim Ines Geipel said Koehler's book was "completely irresponsible" and contained "absolutely nothing new." Koehler was just trying to discredit the victims, she said.

Three-time Olympic speed-skating champion Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann said: "If (Koehler) thinks all athletes knew about the substances they received, then that's his opinion."

Author: Darren Mara (dpa/SID)
Editor: Susan Houlton

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