German Sport in Shock Over Doping Revelations: From World Cups to Olympic Games – Keir Radnedge

August 5, 2013

Thomas Bach has urged the immediate publication of a sensational report lifting the lid on the extent to which sports doping was undertaken in Cold War Germany . . . not in the East but in the West.

The 800-page study by the Humboldt University in Berlin was commissioned in 2008 by the German Olympic sports federation (DOSB) and the Federal Institute of Sport Science (BISp); head of the DOSB is Bach who is favourite to become the next president of the International Olympic Committee.

However no-one had expected such shattering revelations about not only the injections given to West Germany’s 1954 World Cup-winners but a systematic, 20-year doping programme across all Olympic sports.

Such a programme was run, according to Doping in Germany from 1950 to today* with the knowledge of not only senior politicians but sports officials and doctors. Their work was funded with taxpayers’ money by the Interior Ministry.

A draft summary of the investigation was completed last year and the final version had been kept under wraps since April this year. Frustration at the ‘freeze’ over concerns of data protection issues and legal action, led to it being leaked last week to the Suddeutsche Zeitung. Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich is already coming under pressure over the delay in publication.

The report will be a major embarrassment for Bach who is favourite to be voted in as next IOC president in September in succession to the retiring Jacques Rogge.

Erfurt scandal

This is not the first domestic doping issue to have confronted him. Only last year, in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics, Bach had to deal with concerns over practices at the Erfurt Olympic training centre.

The Humboldt report casts a long shadow over West German sports achievement in the years of the Cold War. The SDZexpose describes it as showing that “doping was everywhere in West German sport . . . to a frightening extent.”

Initially the programme sought to disprove performance-enhancing qualities of anabolic steroids, testosterone and oestrogen. When the converse became obvious, such substances were issued to competitors including athletes and rowers.

The extent was not comparable with developments in East Germany – seven of whose track-and-field records stand to this day – but serious and widespread enough.


One witness told researchers of a conversation before the 1972 Munich Olympics when a senior sports ministry official said: “One thing matters above all else: medals.”

The allegation of such pressure on the sports medicine establishment has been denied by former Interior Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher. He said yesterday that such systematic doping was “completely impossible.”

As for football, the report alludes to stimulants administered to players in club football in the late 1940s, before West Germany re-entered international competition.

Needle sharing

In 1954 West German footballers preparing for the World Cup finals accepted injections of, they were told, vitamin concoctions. Within months of their sensational World Cup victory over runaway favourites Hungary (Das Wunder von Bern), many of the players had been taken seriously ill; jaundice was the common diagnosis.

The players had all been dosed with the same shared needle and syringe.

Only a minority, among them Alfred Pfaff – later captain of Eintracht Frankfurt’s legendary 1960 European Cup finalists – refused the jabs. Winger Richard Herrmann died of cirrhosis aged 39, just eight years later.

These injections, according to the Humboldt report, were not ‘mere’ vitamins but the methamphetamine Pervitin.

This was the so-called ‘Panzer chocolate’ or ‘fighter chocolate’ which was issued to combatants in the Axis and Allied forces during the Second World War. It was still widely available in Germany years later because more than 35m doses had been manufactured in the early 1940s.

Twelve years later three members of the West German team who finished runners-up to England in the 1966 World Cup tested positive for ephedrine. This was apparently passed off as a cold cure in a note to world football federation FIFA.

‘New generation’

German athletics chief Clemens Prokop, asked about the allegations, said the doping programme could have been a Cold War issue only. He added: “For track and field today I can largely rule out any such problems. Since the 1990s we have a new generation.”

Prokop may have forgotten last year’s controversy focused on the Olympic Training Centre in Erfurt which had been the acknowledged home of scientific abuse of athletes in the former East Germany.

There, between 2006 and 2011, some 30 high-level German competitors – including speed skaters, rowers plus track and field athletes – had blood samples irradiated with ultraviolet light and then reinfused.

This treatment, ostensibly to combat infection, had been developed under the East German state doping programme.

At Erfurt it was applied under the direction of Andreas Franke. He was a former medical partner of Horst Tausch who was jailed for 10 months in 2000 for providing Kristin Otto and 21 other former East German swimmers with performance-enhancing drugs.

Continuance of the UV practice by Franke was accepted because it was never considered doping as such. Clearly, however, it fringed a line which looks even thinner in the wake of the Humboldt report.

Open letter

Last year concern that Germany’s anti-doping authorities were dragging their feet over Franke’s work prompted a dozen high-profile campaigners to write an open letter to Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The 12 included Brigitte Berendonk (the No1 expert on East German sports doping), Olympic biathlon champion Antje Harvey and doping victim Andreas Krieger (who, as Heidi Krieger, had been a steroid-wrecked European shot champion).

Their letter was entitled: “Doping cover-up at the Erfurt Olympic Training Centre.” It stated: “For many years opponents of doping within sports and governmental organisations have come up against a granite wall.”

The letter suggested this had been a consequence of the defensive influence of political institutions within the government, the World Anti-Doping Agency and its cash-strapped German counterpart NADA (Nationale Anti-Doping Agentur).

All those suspicions and concerns about the ‘granite wall’ have now been enhanced by the Humboldt report.

Publication plea

DOSB chief Bach, a vice-president of the International Olympic Committee as well as a Games gold-winning fencer, reacted to the SDZ revelations from the Humboldt report by calling for its immediate publication.

He said: “I took the initiative for this study soon after the DOSB was founded [in 2006]. We wanted to have clarification about the doping history in Germany. Finding out about our heritage is essential for our zero tolerance policy against doping. A lot of this information is not new and was already published before by other scientists.

“We look forward to receiving the final report of the research and will take the necessary consequences after a careful study. In order to ensure full transparency we would welcome the publication of this final report.”

A special hearing of the parliamentary sports committee is expected to be summoned early next month after the summer recess. Green party sports specialist Viola von Cramon has warned that Minister Friedrich has serious questions to answer over suggestions of a cover-up.

Bach, as president of the Appeals Division of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, he knows no country is free of doping problems. Conversely now he has been offered an opportunity to demonstrate his leadership qualities.

His response may determine not only how German sport emerges from the scandal but his own future within the Olympic movement.

The full title of the report is:  Doping in Deutschland von 1950 bis heute aus historisch- soziologischer Sicht im Kontext ethischer Legitimation [Doping in Germany from 1950 to today from a historical and sociological perspective in the context of ethical legitimacy].

Keir Radnedge has been covering football worldwide for more than 40 years, writing 33 books, from tournament guides to comprehensive encyclopedias, aimed at all ages.

His journalism career included The Daily Mail for 20 years as well as The Guardian and other national newspapers and magazines in the UK and around the world. He is a former editor, and remains a lead columnist, with World Soccer, generally recognised as the premier English language magazine on global football.

In addition to his writing, Keir has been a regular analyst for BBC radio and television, Sky Sports, Sky News, Aljazeera and CNN.

Keir Radnedge’s Twitter: @KeirRadnedge

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