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MD Convicted in Swimmers Drug Case

January 12, 2000

BERLIN (AP) _ A mastermind of East Germany’s effort to pump up young female swimmers into medal winners with steroids walked out of court a free man Wednesday, despite charges by a victim that her son’s birth defect was caused by the performance-boosting drugs.

Lothar Kipke was convicted on 58 counts of causing bodily harm and received a 15-month suspended jail sentence. The former chief doctor for the East German swim team also was fined $3,900.

The one-day trial was a sign of the rush to bring former East German sports officials to trial before the statute of limitations expires Oct. 3, the 10th anniversary of German unification.

Kipke, 72, admitted in court that he helped design the system to secretly give swimmers steroids in East Germany’s drive to win medals for communism.

The small country was at the top of Olympic medal tables in the 1970s and ’80s, but revelations about systematic use of banned drugs have since tainted its successes. Former athletes say coaches told them the drugs were vitamins.

Judge Peter Faust said in his sentencing that Kipke knew about the drugs’ harmful side effects. Kipke, who was charged with administering steroids between 1975 and 1984, testified he became aware of the side effects only gradually.

Martina Gottschalt, one of the victims, charged that the steroids caused a deformity in her son’s foot. She said she knew of birth defects among children of other former East German swimmers.

``This cannot be a coincidence,″ she told the court.

The court refused to consider her allegation, saying it was medically unproven and irrelevant to the charges against Kipke. The women involved also claim to suffer from side effects such as abnormal muscle growth, excessive body hair and a deepened voice.

Kipke testified he was under orders from higher authorities to keep the girls and their parents in the dark about the steroids.

Attorneys for Gottschalt and four other doping victims had sought a 2 1/2-year jail term for Kipke. Prosecutors argued for the suspended sentence.

Use of performance-boosting drugs permeated East German athletics. The former national women’s swim team coach admitted at his trial in 1998 that he secretly gave his athletes banned drugs.

Courts so far have handed down fines and suspended sentences _ but no jail terms _ against nine former East German sports officials for involvement in doping.

At least 10 other former officials are under investigation or have been charged, including former East German sports chief Manfred Ewald. He allegedly was in charge of keeping the doping secret.

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