Report: West Germany systematically doped athletes
BERLIN (AP) — A report by German researchers claims that West Germany’s athletes were systematically doped with government backing from the 1970s, and possibly earlier.
The Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper publicized details from the unpublished 800-page report titled “Doping in Germany from 1950 to today” on Saturday, revealing the extent to which West German politicians were allegedly willing to promote drug use among athletes to ensure international success.
According to the report, one interior minister — who wasn’t named — said at the time: “Our athletes should have the same conditions and services as the Eastern bloc athletes.”
The report was put together by researchers at Berlin’s Humboldt University on behalf of the German Olympic Sports Confederation, with Giselher Spitzer as the project leader. It was completed in April, but has yet to be published because of privacy concerns and legal issues over naming athletes, doctors and politicians.
The report claims that for years the state financed experiments with performance-enhancing substances such as anabolic steroids, testosterone, estrogen or the blood-doping agent EPO. It did not state when the experiments ended.
It also states that an unspecified number of footballers in the 1954 World Cup-winning team received injections of the methamphetamine Pervitin, commonly known today as speed, according to the newspaper.
The authors say West German doping did not evolve as a response to East Germany’s systematic doping under the Communist government, but rather that it operated parallel to it.
The conditions for “systemic doping” were laid in 1970 when the Federal Institute of Sport Science (BISp) was founded under jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry, which is still responsible for sports.
The BISp provided funding for research into doping substances for years, with sports medicine facilities in Freiburg, Cologne and Saarbruecken among the main recipients, the report says.
“There’s a systemic connection between research and forbidden substances and in using them for athletes,” Spitzer, the project leader for the report, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview last year. “That’s why we call it systemic doping.”
Doping existed in Germany long before the establishment of the BISp.
Amphetamines were used by German soldiers during World War II and their continued use in German football from the end of the 1940s became “normal,” according to the study.
The historians uncovered a letter dated Nov. 29, 1966, in which FIFA medical committee chairman Mihailo Andrejevic wrote of “very fine traces” of the banned stimulant ephedrine found in three unnamed German players at the 1966 World Cup.
England beat West Germany 4-2 in the final, with Geoff Hurst scoring England’s disputed third goal.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported that the study alleges that Borussia Dortmund coach Max Merkel instructed his players to take the methamphetamine Pervitin in 1961. Dortmund lost the German championship final to Nuremberg that year. Merkel died in 2006.
The report states that minors were also doped. Women and children were not supposed to be given anabolic steroids due to uncertainty over the long-term effects, but researchers say the advice made little difference.
Dr. Joseph Keul of Freiburg allegedly tested the effects of anabolic steroids on boys as young as 11. Keul died in 2000.
Sueddeutsche Zeitung also said that German athletes received around 1,200 injections of Berolase and thioctacid at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. They weren’t banned at the time and were supposed to improve performance but their effects had been untested.
It became known as the Kolbe syringe after rower Peter-Michael Kolbe, who looked to be heading for gold only to slump toward the end of his race with Pertti Karppinen to allow the Finn to overtake.
The study was commissioned by the BISp on behalf of the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) in 2008.
“Much of what we could read today, however, isn’t new,” DOSB general secretary Michael Vesper said. “We’re looking forward to the final report, which we expect shortly from the BISp.”
The Interior Ministry said in an email response that the concerns about data protection that has been delaying the report’s publication had been addressed “so that in this respect there is no longer anything standing in the way of publication.”
It did not say when the study might be published, however.
The ministry stressed that it has a “great interest in completely clearing up and evaluating the doping past in both parts of Germany.”
German Athletics president Clemens Prokop called for names to be revealed, “especially of those who are still involved in sport.”
Last Tuesday, the Main-Post and Maerkische Oderzeitung newspapers reported that the BISp funded experiments in Freiburg on the performance of anabolic steroids before the 1972 Olympic Games, citing a file from the Federal Archives in Koblenz.