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Opinion: Doping and Hypocrisy

Stefan Nestler / rg
August 5, 2013

DW’s sports editor Stefan Nestler believes that investigators into doping pracitices applied double standards, turning a blind eye to what was going on in West Germany for decades.

Symbolbild Doping Spritze Sport Spitzensport Radsport
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

It is always easy to point your finger at others, more so than facing up to your own wrongdoings. That applies to the world of sports too.

Following German reunification in 1990 it didn't take long for the German Democratic Republic's (GDR) doping practices to come to light. Evidence was published showing the systematic, state-sponsored doping of athletes in East Germany, triggering an outcry of indignation. And rightly so.

It was revealed that an official, systematic doping program was launched in 1974, according to which thousands of athletes, including minors, were regularly given performance enhancing drugs, many of which had dangerous side-effects.

This confirmed all suspicions that had been voiced during the Cold War period. West German sports officials claimed that the bad guys in the communist East had been cheating their way to gold and silver in international competitions, leaving their clean, doping-free western competitors empty handed.

Stefan Nestler
Deutsche Welle's Stefan NestlerImage: DW

Twenty-three years after reunification a study conducted at Berlin's Humboldt University now challenges this interpretation of events. It revealed that a government-sponsored doping scheme was also implemented in the West in the 1970s. Athletes were used as guinea pigs to try out the effects of anabolics, testosterone, EPO and other substances.

Evidence shows that such performance enhancing chemicals were administered to West German athletes a staggering 1,200 times during the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. Not all those substances were explicitly banned, but even so, such practices should have no place in “clean sports”.

The study reveals that top sports officials and politicians knew of the doping experiments. They must have realized that this went well beyond pure research. Once again it is obvious that doping practices are met with strong words of condemnation, but that is no more than lip service.

While everyone wants to see German athletes do well, boosting the country's image, it is common practice to look the other way when critics suggest any wrongdoing. And now, of course, everyone is quick to claim ignorance.

There are many people who had a strong personal interest in suppressing for as long as possible the information that has now come to light.

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