First charges filed in probe into doping in East German sports
BERLIN (AP) _ The first charges to result from a criminal investigation into steroid use in East German sports were brought today against four former East German swimming coaches.
The four were charged with causing bodily harm by administering anabolic steroids to 17 teen-age girls from 1974-1989 ``without telling them or their parents, or answering honestly when asked″ what they were being given, although the coaches were aware the steroids could have harmful side effects.
All the young swimmers suffered from ``considerable disturbance of muscle growth,″ as well in several cases, symptoms of pain and bodily changes such as a deeper voice or excessive body hair, according to Berlin prosecutors.
Two of the coaches charged, Dieter Lindemann and Volker Frischke, were hired by the German national team after unification. They were recently withdrawn from training duties in Spain because of the investigation, according to German Swimming Federation president Ruediger Tretow.
Lindemann, 46, former coach of Olympic medalist Franziska van Almsick, and the current trainer for Steffen Zesner, faces four counts of causing bodily harm.
Frischke, 53, coach of European champion Kerstin Kielgass, faces eight counts.
Swimming federation director Klaus Nottrodt said the two were given a chance to come clean after their suspension, but ``neither did.″ He said he expected they would be fired on Wednesday.
Both men have denied the charges.
Also charged were Rolf Glaeser, 57, and Dieter Krause, 50, who no longer works as a coach.
Glaeser, was hired by the Austrian swim team after German unification, faces nine counts. One of his former proteges, 1980 Olympic medalist Christiane Knacke, has called him ``one of the most aggressive anabolic steroid coaches″ in former East Germany.
The men face up to three years in prison if convicted, said Matthias Rebentisch, spokesman for Berlin prosecutors.
Despite widespread suspicions about East German athletes over the years, few were ever caught in drug tests. But since German unification, evidence of the systematic use of steroids to enhance performance has been found in once-secret East German government files.
Steroids were given to promising athletes in their early teens without their knowledge or consent, investigators said. Many of the former athletes are now suffering ill effects such as liver and kidney ailments, reproductive problems among women and the growth of female-like breasts among men.
Authorities said they want to first prosecute coaches and doctors who administered the drug cocktails in order to build a foundation for charges against the politicians and officials who ordered and oversaw the doping.