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Swimmer Talks of Steroid Pressure

April 20, 1998

BERLIN (AP) _ An Olympic swimmer testified Monday that East German coaches pressured her and others to take steroids even when they tried to resist, and the athletes now have excessive body hair, unnatural muscles or deepened voices.

Christiane Knacke-Sommer, a bronze medalist in the butterfly at the 1980 Moscow Games, is the first East German athlete to testify about the former communist nation’s drug program.

Four East German coaches and two doctors are charged with harming 19 swimmers _ all teen-agers at the time _ by giving them anabolic steroids. Despite widespread suspicions about East German athletes over the years, few were ever caught in drug tests.

Prosecutors hope convictions will provide a basis for bringing charges against those who ran the drug program, which helped East Germany win dozens of gold medals at the Olympics and other championships.

Knacke-Sommer, now 36, said she became aware the pills coaches started giving her at age 15 were steroids, but her efforts to resist were overridden by the coaches’ insistence. They told her the pills improved endurance.

``We had to take them in front of (our trainer),″ she testified. ``We were told that it would make our training easier to take.″

Knacke-Sommer testified that her voice became deeper and her legs hairier following a regimen of pills and injections starting in 1977.

The court was closed for testimony dealing with the hormonal and sexual effects of the alleged steroid program.

Knacke-Sommer said swimmers old enough for competition-level training were given pills in cups on a daily basis. She said they were never shown the pills’ original packing.

Prosecutors contend the coaches and doctors knew the health risks but nevertheless administered the steroids under a state-sponsored push to create champions. Prosecutors must prove a link between steroids and health problems.

The defendants are coaches Rolf Glaeser, Volker Frischke, Dieter Lindemann and Dieter Krause and physicians Dieter Bienus and Bernd Pansold. The trial is expected to last until July.

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