PERTH, Australia (AP) _ The German Swimming Federation appealed the possible life ban of team leader Winfried Leopold for admitting his past involvement in systematic doping.

Ruediger Tretow, president of the federation, sent a letter of appeal Monday to swimming's world governing body FINA calling for the world swimming body to reinstate Leopold in order to allow him to coach the team at the world swimming championships this week in Perth.

Tretow said the federation had planned not to appeal, but that support from team members had swayed their original decision.

``We have appealed due to the fact that the team supports an appeal and demonstrates they are standing behind Mr. Leopold,'' said Tretow.

Leopold, 59, said at the German federation press conference that he had never administered drugs but admitted _ at hearings in 1991 and 1993 _ to having knowledge of drugs in the former East German system. He was director of East Germany's men's team from 1986 to 1990 and has been a swimming coach since 1960.

``I was suspended in 1991, in short I got the sack,'' Leopold said Monday. ``In 1993, after a hearing in front of a body of the Germany doping panel, I was reinstated into a minor training role. It was my personal wish to contribute to the cleansing process in the doping area.

``Since 1990 I have done everything possible to support drug-free sport.''

Tretow, in comments published in Germany on Monday, said FINA's decision would increase the wall of silence about drugs in the sport.

``If Winfried Leopold had lied to a FINA hearing, he would have kept his accreditation,'' Tretow said. ``I think it's unacceptable for FINA to hide its head in the sand for seven years and now start coming to terms with the past during a world championship.

``It's so easy for FINA to close its eyes to what is happening in other countries in connection with doping,'' Tretow said.

Earlier, FINA said Leopold faced a possible life ban from the sport after being stripped of his world championships accreditation.

FINA's honorary secretary Gunnar Werner said a doping panel of lawyers would investigate Leopold's statements.

``That panel will make their investigation, give him a fair hearing and then make a decision,'' Werner said. ``If found guilty, the suspension may be up to life, ending his career.''

Meanwhile, Werner said statements from former 1500-meter world champion Jorg Hoffman that he took drugs while swimming for East Germany had been referred back to the German team for possible action.

``I have spoken with the president of the German association and asked him to investigate the case,'' Werner said. ``FINA have not yet dealt with it.''

Werner said FINA was unaware of the admissions until Leopold's press statements Thursday.

``We didn't know anything; as a Swede, a neighbor of Germany, I know very well about Germany and I have never known of him being involved in drugs before,'' Werner said. ``Swimming is going on in 170 countries _ it's absolutely impossible for us to know everything.''

That shocked German team officials.

German team media official Gerd Heydn said it was unfair that Leopold was banned for admissions he had made as early as 1991.

``He was deeply disappointed and surprised at this (FINA) reaction because he thought he was honest and told the truth in 1991, not a week before leaving for Perth,'' Heydn said.

``It's been well known worldwide for seven years, and Mr. Leopold was already punished in Germany. He was out of his job for two years, and that is enough.''

The German team was told of FINA's decision at a meeting late Sunday.