BERLIN, Germany, October 22. MANFRED Ewald, who guided East German athletics to Olympic glory but was later convicted in a German court for presiding over the Communist country's doping programs, has died at the age of 76. The cause of death was complications from a lung infection.
Ewald died Monday in a clinic in the eastern state of Brandenburg after developing pneumonia, according to Jochen Gruenwald, a former secretary of the East
German Sports Federation.
As head of the federation from 1961 to 1988 and East Germany's National Olympic Committee from 1973 until 1990, Ewald was the dominant figure in the rise of the Communist country's prowess in athletics.
At the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, the team surpassed their West German rivals for the first time, with 20 gold medals. The total doubled to 40 at
the Montreal Games in 1976. East Germans won 11 of 13 events in women's swimming in 1976 and again in 1980.
But following German reunification in 1990, Ewald and other officials were soon accused of systematically pumping young athletes full of performance-enhancing drugs to build medal winners for communism. Many of the athletes were minors and were given "little blue pills" without their knowledge.
The consequences have been severe. A number of
athletes have developed health problems, including cancer, ovarian cysts and liver dysfunction. Some have given birth to babies who were blind or had club feet. A champion shot-putter, Heidi Krieger, developed many male characteristics after heavy steroid use. She decided to have a sex-change operation and take the name Andreas Krieger, later saying the steroid use played a role in that decision.
In July 2000, a Berlin court convicted Ewald and Dr. Manfred Hoeppner, medical chief of the doping program, of causing "intentional bodily harm to athletes, including minors," with Ewald cited as being the
"driving force" behind East Germany's doping program. Both men were given a light slap on the wrist — probation. For his part, Ewald remained defiant, claiming "We had no involvement in this matter whatsoever."
Born May 17, 1926, in Podejuch, now in Poland, Ewald was educated at an elite Nazi school. He joined the Hitler Youth at the age of 12 and became a Nazi party member six years later.
Ewald entered the Nazi civil service in 1940 and was called to fight in Hitler's army in June 1944. Briefly held captive by Soviet forces, he was released after the war. He soon joined the German Communist Party, and began his climb through the ranks of the fledging communist state's sports administration in 1948 as secretary of the German Sports Committee. In 1963, he became a member of East Germany's Central Committee.
Ewald served as sports minister from 1961 until 1988 and as head of the East German Olympic Committee from 1973 until the country collapsed in 1990.
He published a defiant autobiography called "I Was Sport" in the mid-1990s, before his health began to deteriorate.
While many suspected that East German athletes were cheating, the International Olympic Committee looked the other way. Upon becoming president of the I.O.C. in 1980, Juan Antonio Samaranch quickly demonstrated he was uninterested in halting drug use. In 1985, Samaranch presented Ewald with the Olympic Order, the highest honor in international sports. Despite disclosures of Ewald's role in the doping sscandal, samaranch adamantly refused to revoke the honor.
In 1994, Swimming World published the first proof, provided by Dr. Werner Francke and taken from the files of the Stasi, the East Germany secret police, that every medal "won" by East Germany was irrevocably tainted by drug use, and demanded that the IOC revoke the medals awarded to East Germans and give them to the rightful winners. At first, USA Swimming and the USOC opposed this demand, though eventually USA Swimming supported it and the USOC gave it mild approvaal. However, under Samaranch, the I.O.C. refused, saying that history cannot be rewritten. Perhaps the new IOC president, Dr. Jacques Rogge, will reverse that unfortunate decision.
Ewald is survived by his wife Vera and three children. His funeral is to take place Wednesday in the village of Damsdorf.