By John Leonard
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., February 17. THE recent revelation that the East German sport doping criminal Helge Pfieffer is working in China raises a number of issues. Among them are things that we can consider to be facts, and not inconsequently, provokes a number of fears based on a historical review of the world doping issue.
1. Helge Pfieffer is a sport criminal. She is guilty of child abuse of the worst kind – coercion of children to take chemical substances that ruin their health and the reproductive potential and genetic capacity of their descendents. This is well established in the Stasi papers and the resulting trials in East Germany. She was the very top of the pyramid in East Germany, in charge of doping programs and training. No one more deserves a prison term, as well as the less consequential worldwide ban from sport.
2. China learned its doping skills exhibited in the 90’s from East German doctors and coaches sent there in 1987-89. In particular, banned Chinese Coach Zhou Ming learned directly from Prof. Helge Pfieffer in Leigzig. Many other East Germans were involved as well.
3. Zhou Ming was particularly successful in the early 90’s with his world record and Olympic champion athletes not caught at the time of their “triumphs.” Later, his athletes were caught in tests, and he was banned from China Swimming for an indeterminable period of time.
4. Zhou Ming cannot today be found. Repeated requests to the Chinese Swimming Federation and many individuals associated with that organization by myself have been without result. He has seemingly “disappeared” much like Prof. Helge Pfieffer disappeared by running to Austria, literally in the middle of the Doping Trials in Germany.
5. The wife of Coach Zhou Ming was, for the entire period of the late 80s and early 90’s, in charge of China's national age group swimming planning, with total access to information on who the leading age group swimmers were in China and their progress. She too has disappeared with Zhou.
6. In the old East Germany, a common and repeated “strategy” for effective cheating involved the identification of talented youngsters and training them in secret, according to centralized training plans, accompanied by a VARIETY of doping methods. As major championships approached, and then FINA Medical Committee Chairman Lothar Kipke returned to the homeland with reports on what the doping testing capabilities would be at those approaching contests, the East Germans would select those athletes who were using doping methodologies that could not be detected for that competition. The others were simply left home. Thus, a constant stream of “new names” with startling new times would appear for a short time and then “disappear” as doping testing methods caught up with their form of “doping methodology”. This was HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL. NOT ONE EAST GERMAN SWIMMER EVER TESTED POSITIVE!
7. China, in approximately December of 2001, selected 100 youngsters with great potential. Fifty of them were assigned to the national training center in Beijing, under the care and feeding of the national team coaches.
Some of you might ask, “what became of the other 50?” I asked that question also. No one will say, or no one connected with Chinese swimming will say.
Seven FACTS. All dependable, all well known, both in Asia and around the world.
Now, some quasi facts:
1. Quasi-fact number one – No one that I can find has any knowledge of Professor Dr. Helge Pfieffer being, in any possible way, a “flume expert.” If she is, it’s a set of skills she developed in the past 13 years of her hiding underground.
2. Quasi-fact number two – No Chinese coach with whom I have spoken thinks that China just “ignored” the other 50 elite age group athletes. They just don’t know – or won’t say – where they are.
3. Quasi-fact number three – China, which has made abundantly clear in the past five to six years that it wants no further embarrassment from doping scandals, has also made it clear that it intends to dominate certain sports, swimming among them, at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. This is confirmed by many high ranking Chinese Swimming Federation officials and coaches.
4. Quasi-fact number four – Assurances and best efforts from the Chinese Olympic Committee and China Swimming that they will be doping-free are nice. But, as the ancient saying goes in China, “it’s a long way to Beijing,” which has been used for centuries to say with a wink, that policies and procedures that are centrally planned in Beijing may indeed not be the way things are on the ground in far-flung provinces.
Now, what exactly are our FEARS?
Let's use just a small amount of imagination.
“Someone” in China, wishing to dominate swimming in 2008 in Beijing, decides to resort to cheating once again. What do they do?
First, they assign their “best coach,” Zhou Ming, to the job.
Second, they take half of their “top prospects” (the missing 50) and give them to Coach Zhou as his team for 2008.
Third, they get help. Who better to help than the reigning queen of successful never-caught-doping swim training, Professor Dr. Helge Pfieffer? And isn’t it convenient that Coach Zhou was tutored earlier in his career by Dr. Pfieffer, so they already know how to work together.
Fourth, they train talented youngsters in some remote area of China, unknown, perhaps, even to Chinese Swimming authorities and coaches. They use a variety of sophisticated doping methods and perhaps the brave new world of genetic enhancement, to prepare those 50 young talents in a variety of ways.
Fifth, as we approach Beijing, say three – six months out, the picture will be pretty clear what WADA can and cannot test for. So now these new talents emerge from the shadows to take a few places on the Chinese team. All its takes to dominate is perhaps three to five great new talents.
China dominates, the validity of China as a great sporting nation is established and nobody gets caught in the embarrassing position of doping.
And, of course, the scenario is more than entirely possible since it has happened before in East Germany, where the heroine/villain of this tale, Dr. Helge Pfieffer, was in charge.
So that’s all fantasy of course, just the random musings of a handful of over-active imaginations.
Oh yes, by the way, reports in the last few days place the point of manufacture and origin of the two newly-designed steroids that WADA has found to be — you guessed it — China.
FACTS, and FEARS. We need the facts to speak for themselves, and WADA to ban Helge Pfieffer from sport for life as a sport criminal, and CHINA to recognize the total and absolute WRONGNESS of allowing this criminal to work in their nation, and toss her out on her ear.