BERLIN (AP) _ A former East German sports doctor admitted Monday to handing out steroids, the first confession in a trial of six communist-era sports figures charged with hurting swimmers with performance-enhancing drugs.

Dieter Binus, 59, insisted the doses were too small to cause physical harm and that none of his athletes showed ill side effects.

Binus, another doctor and four East German coaches are charged with causing bodily harm to 19 young swimmers _ teen-agers at the time _ by giving them anabolic steroids without informing them or their parents.

According to the charges, the women suffer from such problems as unnatural body hair, excessive muscle growth, voice changes or severe acne.

Prosecutors say they have evidence that the coaches and doctors knew the health risks of steroids, but nevertheless administered them under a communist state-sponsored push to create world champions.

All the defendants _ including Binus _ had denied the charges. But Binus reversed his stance this month and told the court he wanted to make a statement.

Binus said he distributed the pills to the coaches, who were supposed to give them to the athletes. The dosage ranged from five to 10 milligrams over three to four weeks, he said.

Because the dosage never exceeded 1,000 milligrams per year, damaging side-effects were not possible, he testified.

Binus also denied ever giving testosterone injections or other drugs.

He said as doctor for the Dynamo Berlin team since 1979, he did not make his own decisions, but was answerable to the doctors' commission in the swimming association.

The other defendants are coaches Rolf Glaeser, 58, Volker Frischke, 53, Dieter Lindemann, 46, and Dieter Krause, 50.

Binus' statement opens the way for the court to separate his case from the other five, who have denied all charges. Binus could be sentenced next month; the maximum he faces is a fine.