GDR 30 Years On: The Day In 1989 The Berlin Wall Came Tumbling Down On Doping Regime

What suited the GDR - and how Brigitte Berendonk told the story of systematic doping and State Research Plan 14:25 - Main Photo Courtesy: NT Archive/Craig Lord

GDR 30 Years On

Germany today celebrates the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the end of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). We’ll be celebrating the moment in our family, too, it having made it possible for me to meet my wife and for us to know our sons and the lives we lead.

The Peaceful Revolution came to a head three decades ago with emotional scenes as Hans-Dietrich Genscher, speaking to a crowd from a balcony at the West German Embassy in Prague (to where thousands of East Germans had fled that September) announced the terms of the deal he had negotiated for them to travel to the West and freedom. The trains had to pass first through the GDR and as they chugged through Dresden, police were forced to stop the crowds from jumping on the rolling wagons.

Not much more than a month later, it was, in essence, all over: 40 years of the official GDR were done, the Berlin Wall was about to be dismantled to the sound of the scuttling feet of Stasi (secret police) operatives dashing for the archive and the shredder.

Thankfully, there was just too much to shred, too much to hide, too many notes to wipe from the slate of history. They included scribblings of the precise dosages of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs – some of them clinically trialled on human guinea pigs – that fuelled the GDR sports medals and records factory.

The Stasi (Staatssicherheitsdienst) was established on 8 February 1950. It was an intelligence agency and crime investigation service that had citizens spying on each other. At one stage, it had 270,000 people working for it, among whom 180,000 were informers, including athletes, coaches, doctors and others working in performance sport. They were known as “unofficial collaborators”.

Eight days after the fall of the Wall, the Stasi was renamed the “Office for National Security” (Amt für Nationale Sicherheit). The old agency was dissolved on January 13, 1990, a year to the day before a German swimming team would end its first World Championships as a united East-West unit. The ghosts of the past would haunt for much longer.

The Stasi spied on almost every aspect of East Germans’ daily lives – down to the details of which colour people liked to paint their front doors, whether they put curtains up at their windows and much else that in hindsight could be considered the mundane stuff of village life but back then had more than a sinister touch of Miss Marple with horns on.

The espionage stretched well beyond the Wall. The Stasi kept files on about 5.6 million people. The archive of what survived runs to 111 km (69 miles) of files in total, about half of that kept at the Stasi Records Agency’s headquarters in Berlin, the rest at its 12 regional offices. It includes written documentation, photos, slides, film and sound recordings and stretches to samples of the sweat and body odour collected from the subjects of interrogation.

The archive includes vast tomes of information on State Research Plan 14:25, the systematic doping program that had its roots in the 1960s and was bolstered by the establishment of the ‘uM’ – unterstützende Mittel’ or supportive means – working group in 1974 in response to the 1972 advance of techniques to detect doping and their adoption by the International Olympic Committee at the dawn of realisation that cheating would be cancer to the Games.

What has followed since has, generally speaking, reflected a battle of two mindsets: those who talk the good fight but work to contain and cover-up and make sure the show goes on, cheats and all, and those who work for clean sport and know that in 2019 that work is far from over.

The GDR’s Dominance In The Pool

Men were doped too but the virilisation effect of Oral Turinabol and other steroid compounds that effectively turned girls and women into boys in sporting-performance terms (and, with further intervention, literally in some cases) meant that it was in women’s sport that we saw the most dramatic dominance of swimming ever witnessed in the history of the sport.

That history resonates today in various forms, including the addition of transgender male-to-female athletes excelling in women’s sport because of the physical advantages accrued from growing up as boys.

A quick summary of what State Plan 14:25 converted to in the pool, 1973-1989:


(all long-course):

  • In 1972, the GDR women’s team held no solo world records
  • From 1973-1989, GDR women swimmers set 110 solo world records and 17 relay world records for a total of 127 global standards
  • Those records included 78 standards over 100m swims
  • Those records included the following unbroken sequences in which only GDR women held the world record: x14, 100m freestyle, 1973-86; x12, 100m backstroke; 1974-1991; x9, 100m breaststroke, 1980-1994; x11, 100m butterfly, 1973-1980; x9, 200IM, 1973-78;  x8, 4x100m medley, 1973-1992.
  • The 1500m freestyle is the only event in which the world record was never held by a GDR woman
  • GDR women set 171 European records, 151 solo and 20 relays, 1973-1989
  • That sequence of European records included eight events in which GDR women were the only standard-setters during that entire period: 100m free (15); 400m free (14); 200 ‘fly (14); 200IM (8); 4x100m free (8); 4x200m free (3); 4x100m medley (9).
  • During that time period, just 18 European records were set by non-GDR women, eight of those by Soviet athletes, leaving 10 standards for all others in 17 years of asking.



GDR’s Medals Machine – the news went down well at home – Image courtesy: Craig Lord

Olympic Games

  • At the 1976, 1980 and 1988 Olympic Games, there were a total of 120 medals, 40 each colour) up for grabs in women’s swimming: more than half of the total, 64, went to GDR women
  • Of those 64 Olympic medals, 31 out of a possible 40 were gold; 19/40 silver and 14/40 bronze.
  • At the 1976 Olympic Games, GDR women claimed 11 gold, 5 silver and a bronze for a total of 17 medals out of a possible 36, including five 1-2 finishes and a sweep, the only golds that did not go their way those in the 200m breaststroke in which Soviet athletes claimed a sweep and the 4x100m free won by the USA quartet in a significant moment of Olympic lore.

World Championships

  • At the 1973, 1975, 1978, 1982 and 1986 World Championships, there were 72 gold medals up for grabs among women.  GDR women claimed 44 of them, including all 100m freestyle crowns;  32 silvers, including all available in the 100 ‘fly; and 15 bronzes.

European Championships – All but total dominance

  • In the seven editions of the continental showcase held between 1974 and 1989, GDR women won all titles in each 11 of the 16 events held. The 74 out of 74 golds (made up of seven finals in 10 events and the four held in that period over 4x00m freestyle) were delivered in the following races: Freestyle – 100, 200, 400 and 800m; Backstroke – 100 and 200m; Butterfly – 200m; Medley – 200m; Relays – 4x100m free; 4x200m free and 4x100m medley. Not a relay lost – ever.
  • In all that time, GDR women lost only eight races, for a tally of 96 out of a possible 104 titles over a 15-year period.
  • Out of a possible 104 silvers, 64 went to the GDR; there were 17 bronzes, too
  • In the 86 solo finals of that era, 56 produced 1-2 finishes for the GDR, which on butterfly meant there were no gold and silver medals for any swimmers who were not East Germans.

In the realm of swimming, the impact of the GDR’s demise was not fully felt until the FINA World Championships in Perth, January 1991. I recall Michael Gross taking to a platform with Kristin Otto and appealing to the media not to dwell on the doping issues. Of course, it was impossible not to do so (Otto out and about with a bag on her back bearing the logo “Just Say No”)- especially when, later that year, the first details of the Sports Crime of the 20th Century emerged in the book Doping: From Research to Deceit, by Brigitte Berendonk, who with her husband, Prof. Werner Franke helped save vast numbers of Stasi files detailing State Plan 14:25, its outcomes, its dosages, the names of athletes coaches, doctors and the dates and timelines so telling to the sequence of historic results in swimming and many other sports.

Today, as Germany prepares for a day of reflection in many realms and walks of life, we take the opportunity to recall why we should never forget what came to pass. I take the moment to thank my former colleagues at SwimNews, the late Nick Thierry and Karin Helmstaedt, who sat in on the doping trials of the late 1990s and reported in English from the court rooms and lobbies and pavements and cafes of the time and its people and players, the work and dedication second to none.

GDR 30 Years On – A reminder from the Craig Lord Archive 

Doping: From Research to Deceit


Brigitte Berendonk – Von Der Forschung Zum Betrug

The Berendonk book confirmed – in part through Stasi and other documents saved from the shredders by people, since deceased, who worked with the author and Franke – the existence and nauseating detail of State Plan 14:25,  complete with the dosages of Oral Turinabol administered to specific athletes, generations of swimmers included.

On 26 August 1993, after the former GDR had disbanded itself to accede to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1990, records were opened and State Plan 14:25 confirmed: the Stasi, the GDR state secret police, supervised systematic doping of East German athletes from 1971 until reunification in 1990. Doping existed in other countries but the GDR was officially unique in so far as having a state plan designed to win in international sport as a way of saying ‘look how great our democratic republic and socialist/communist state is’.

The body and bulk of what was discovered is now held in places public and private in several countries, safe from the long arm of any single authority that may ver wish to suppress the truth. Some of that evidence was used in legal cases against coaches, doctors and others in the German doping trials of the late 1990s and subsequent compensation claims by athletes who suffered a spectrum of woes, from personal health, physical and psychological problems to the horrors of inheritance in the form of children born with club feet and a variety of other disabilities.

Oral Turinabol was just part of the poisonous cocktail of substances administered not only to medal-winning ‘ambassadors in tracksuits’ but to many who were never destined to make it beyond the Berlin Wall. Like the bulk of good but not world-class swimmers in the world, they were club swimmers – but with a dark difference; they served as human guinea pigs to test the effectiveness of substances that had never been clinically trailed in labs before bing administered to the athletes.

The Times in London carried the first post-reunification interview with Kornelia Ender in December 1991, penned by me and revealing her recollection of regular injections and pills that she now knew, along with the rest of us, to be performance-enhancing substances. News agencies, broadcasters and news publications galore from around the world revealed similar cases, after cases, many confirming the shocking depth, width, malice aforethought and criminality of systematic doping.

In the late 1990s, as the doping trials unfolded, a special page on the internet was created by doping victims trying to gain justice and compensation, listing people involved in State Plan 14:25. Those people included Dr Lothar Kipke, who remains on the list of those who received “FINA Pins”, the awards given to those who have graced swimming with good service and upheld all the best of values.

There was never any official proposal from the USA or others with cause to speak up for their athletes to have Kipke and other convicted criminals removed from the FINA honours list and for that to be officially recorded and publicised. This year, after a campaign to recognise victims of the GDR crime on both sides of the divide, I lodged a request with FINA to have that situation reviewed. I am yet to hear news of any progress.

It is well past the time when leading members of FINA, the USA at the helm of them, pressed for the kind of recognition of the past that would result in Kipke’s official removal from the list of FINA honourees with an accompanying statement acknowledging the crimes committed, as recorded by the German court.

State Research Plan 14:25

What suited the GDR - Photo Courtesy: NT Archive gdrsuit-1

What suited the GDR – Photo Courtesy: NT Archive/Craig Lord

State Plan 14:25 held that children (for many of those doped, particularly in sports such as swimming, were under age) would be doped with substances such as anabolic steroids, some never clinically tested on animals before human guinea pigs were plied with them, and without the knowledge or consent of their parents. The 1966 blueprint refers to the drugs as “Unterstutzenden Mitteln“, or “supporting means”. The blueprint would not be signed as official policy until 1974 but experimentation on athletes started much earlier – certainly from 1971 with research for the plan dating back to the mid 1960s. It was the biggest pharmacological experiment in sports history.

The drugs, administered by doctors and coaches, included Oral-Turinabol, a synthetic anabolic agent developed for cancer patients; testosterone derivatives; and “STS 646“, a drug considered too dangerous to licence inside the GDR but given to teenagers before being tested on lab rats. “The pills came in a box of chocolates,” Catherine Menschner would say in court in 1999. You are unlikely to know her name. By the time she spoke she had suffered seven miscarriages in the years after quitting the sport in which she was fed a diet of drugs but not for international glory. “I was a guinea-pig. I was used to test drugs for better athletes so they could win for the GDR,” she said.

The masterminds behind the plan were Manfred Ewald and Dr Manfred Hoeppner. Hoeppner made his base at 21 Czarnikauer Strasse, Berlin, doping HQ, the hub of State Plan 14:25 if you like. The room is just 3 metres square. In it he penned his reports for his Stasi (secret police) overlords on a fold-down table he had installed because there was no room for a proper table. The room was all taken up by boxes of steroids ready for shipping to sports programmes around the country. Hoeppner filed some 1,000 reports to his Stasi contact. Ewald was always in the loop as chief political player at the scene of the crime. In 2000, Ewald, then 74, was found guilty on 20 counts of contributing to bodily harm, the tip of an iceberg of his involvement in a terrible crime.

Ewald, who started off his court case a confident and robust man but ended it with a ruling that his health would only allow him to appear for two hours a day, received a 22-month suspended sentence and Hoeppner an 18-month suspended sentence, the fact that they had criminal convictions against their names more pertinent than the lenient nature of their penalties. Together they had faced 142 counts of assisting grievous bodily harm. On grounds of time, the judge heard just 22 cases before coming to his conclusion that the men before him were as guilty as sin.

Ewald was not handed a financial penalty, as so many others were, for his part in State Plan 14:25, on the grounds that much time had past since he had been up to his eyeballs in guilt. It took German authorities the best part of 10 years to get cases to court, even though the same evidence as produced in 1998-2000 had been available in 1992-93.

At Hoeppner’s right-hand was Dr Lothar Kipke, member of the medical commission of FINA. In that capacity he bangs the anti-doping drum but back home he is one of the worst offenders in the sporting crime of the century. A former member of the Nazi party, Kipke was described in a German court in Berlin in 2000 as “the Joseph Mengele of GDR sport“. He will also be damned by Hoeppner’s hand.

“In preparation for team travel to the US, Dr Kipke forced … athletes to be given testosterone injections. Dr Kipke is brutal in giving the injections. He doesn’t consider any pain it causes to the athlete and almost rams the shringe into the body.” – Hoeppner’s notes to his Stasi liaison officer.

Hoeppner and Kipke sat at the helm of a covert network that coerced and corrupted doctors, coaches, scientists, chemists and swimmers, among others athletes. He keeps a tight ship: beyond issuing “supporting means guidelines” with specific instructions on dosages, he orders abortions:

“Should a pregnancy occur while anabolic steroids are being taken then it is recommended in all cases that an abortion is carried out.” Children born to athletes who had taken steroids are to be delivered in a Stasi clinic so that “a decision could be taken as to what to do” in the event of “complications”.

Hoeppner later got cold feet as the monster he created got out of control and coaches started to choose their own doses for their girls (and boys). Most victims were teenage girls. Carola Nitschke and Antje Stille were 13 when they were put on a steroid regime, court cases would reveal in 1999 and 2000. In his trial, Kipke adopted the role of Nazi concentration camp guard: “I was only following orders…”. There to hear him was former swimmer Martina Gottshalt, who urged her abuser to “look my 15-year-old son in the eyes and tell him you were just following orders”. Her son, Daniel, sat beside her, his clubfoot swinging under the bench.

The network headed by Hoeppner and Kipke extended to beyond Berlin HQ. In Leipzig, Prof Dr Helga Pfeifer is among those rolling out State Plan 14:25. As she confessed me in 2005 during a reflection of her GDR days and in the days after  it was revealed that she had been selling flume equipment for Chinese swim programmes in Shanghai:

“Yes, I was involved. I knew about the doping … The doctors decided. I was informed. I knew. I didn’t want to risk 35 years of sports science work and I don’t feel I have to apologise for that. I know which system I had to live and grow up in. No-one at the time knew how long that system would be in place.”

What suited the GDR - Photo Courtesy: NT Archive gdrsuit-1

What suited the GDR – Photo Courtesy: NT Archive/Craig Lord

Pfeifer handles the sports science data at the heart some of the biggest Olympic sports, swimming included. It is unfair, she told me, to taint “brilliant” work with the doping that was a part of something bigger. Many beg to differ, if only because neither she nor we can say how good GDR swimmers might have been had fair play been the watchword of a rotten regime.  Two months after the Berlin Wall fell, Pfeifer, with official government permission Down Under, was invited to the Australian Institute of Sport. Her scientific papers were still to be found in the library of the AIS in recent years.

Pfeifer, along with many others steeped in the task of rolling out State Plan 14:25 were never called to account in a court of law. Among coaches, national team coaches Juergen Tanneberger and Wolfgang Richter and the East German swimming federation general secretary Egon Muller were among those who received one-year suspended jail sentences after being found guilty grievous bodily harm for having distributed steroids to under-age athletes without their knowledge. Several other national team coaches who had continued to coach Olympic, world and European champions throughout the 1990s, also had their careers brought to a halt after being convicted in trials in 1999 and 2000.

If their guilt was weighty it paled by comparison to that of Kipke, of whom one lawyer for victims said:

“He gave injections, he initiated experiments, and didn’t care about the individuals. He knew exactly what he was doing.”

Kipke, 76 and retired in Leipzig the last we heard, provided a packed courtroom in Berlin in 2000 with this explanation: “At 14 the girls were biologically adult. That’s why we could give them the stuff. They weren’t considered minors anymore.” Or even human, some might say.

Kipke was found guilty on 58 counts of grievous bodily harm to underage female athletes, was served a 15-month suspended sentence and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. That was January 2000. By October 3 that year, time would run out on the GDR doping court cases under a statute of limitations and all those not already called would walk free. Kipke was among seven GDR officials to receive honours from FINA. He received his in 1985, the year in which Stasi documents show that those who were spying on a spy reported back to Stasi bosses that Kipke appeared to relish administering doping in a “brutal” way. The rotten regime itself saw in Kipke a man who ought to be reined in. Dark irony indeed.

Among doctors called to court to account for their role in a massive deception was Dr Dorit Rosler. She would set up a surgery in Czarnikauer Strasse in post GDR days with the very purpose of helping victims of the GDR doping system. In court, Rosler broke down in tears when she faced some of those victims and said:

“I should have shown more courage. In Nazi Germany we did what we were told to do. The GDR doping machine was no different; we were just carrying out medical orders … have we not learned anything?”

No such level of remorse from Dr Dieter Binus, Dr Ulrich Sunder (sounds like Sünde, ‘sin’ in German) and Dr Horst Tausch. They all broke the Hippocratic oath and indeed the law when they administered drugs to swimmers. They were convicted of bodily harm. They continued to practice as doctors years after the doping factory their talents were put to use in had ceased to produce dark results. Among others working in the system was Dr Eberhard Koehler, who sought an injunction to try to prevent publication of a book on GDR doping in which he was named.

He was not alone among those wishing to keep the past a secret and denying that events took place in the way that Stasi documents clearly suggested that they did. Before travel to racing outside the GDR, all swimmers were tested and their urine samples sent to the IOC-accredited laboratory at Kreischa, a place charged by the Olympic movement with the task of catch cheats. In fact, what Kreischa did was to make sure the world would never catch the GDR cheating. Sportsmen and women found positive for drugs simply stayed at home, many after serious attempts had been made to wash their bodies of damning evidence. Little wonder that not a single GDR swimmer was ever caught, even though Stasi documents would later reveal the names, with specific doses of drugs administered, of generations of Olympic and world and European swimming champions.

In my archive is a copy of a Stasi document that shows tests taken on four women – three already Olympic champions by then – at Kreischa, a place not far from Dresden and close to where I sit writing these words. The tests were conducted two weeks before racing at the 1989 European championships in Bonn. All four were massively over the allowable testosterone:epitestosterone limit. Between them they claimed six solo medals, four gold, a silver and a bronze, while all four women contributed to a clean sweep of all three relay events for the GDR. Between 1970 and 1989, no other nation claimed a gold medal in women’s relays at the European championships.

Many a success was built on a little blue pill made in Jena at the eponymous drugs company Jenapharm. Its representative sat at the table when State Plan 14:25 was discussed and honed, according to Stasi papers. None was ever called to account for their role in the mass abuse of large numbers of young athletes.

“If the treatment with anabolics is long-term, or at high dosages, real possibility for androgenic side effects exists. Skin conditions such as acne will develop, virilisation effects such as deeping of the voice, growth of facial hair, masculine habits, increased sexual appetite, and clitoral hypertrophy will all occur.” – Jenapharm (drug company) paper, 1965.

esting, testing - but who will fund the efforts of anti-doping agencies at a time when the integrity of testing labs is called into qustion? doping

1960s to 2019 –  the anti-doping system is being tested with every passing scandal

In 2003, Jenapharm, beyond its GDR days, won Germany’s Golden Pill Award for services to womanhood. Two years on the company was named in a law suit by 162 athletes, many of them swimmers. Jenapharm’s parent companies denied any wrongdoing. In a statement, Jenapharm acknowledged that the company was obliged to “collaborate in the GDR ‘Staatsplan 14.25’, but that it was not a driving force behind the national GDR doping programme”. The blame rested with politicians, sports doctors and coaches. The athletes’ claims were unfounded, the company said.

Ultimately, an out-of-court settlement was reached and victims compensated by the pharmaceutical industry in Germany and by the German Olympic Committee, which assumed the responsibilities of the GDR Olympic body after reunification.

Among the victims were swimmers who in their 30s and 40s suffered defects to heart, liver, gallbladder, chronic back pain, damaged spines and reproductive organs, tumours, had endured multiple miscarriages and given birth to disabled children.

Some of those stories may only be told alongside revelations found in Stasi documents confirming the sporting crime of the century because of Prof Werner Franke, a cell biologist and cancer expert in Heidelberg, his wife Brigitte Berendonk and their lawyer Dr Michael Lehner.

One of the few victims to have spoken eloquently in public about her plight is Rica Reinisch, who at the age of 15 won three gold medals at the Olympic Games of Moscow in 1980, each win producing a world record. “The worst thing was that I didn’t know I was being doped,” she told The Guardian years later.

“I was lied to and deceived. Whenever I asked my coach what the tablets were I was told they were vitamins and preparations.”

Years on and Prof Franke would say: “There was no medical reason to give steroids. It was against the law of the German Democratic Republic. It was against medical ethics. Everybody knew these drugs were not allowed. The people who participated in this clandestine operation knew that they would lose privileges if they refused to take part.

“But they also knew they wouldn’t be executed. Some of the arguments now resemble those brought forward in the Third Reich. Those involved disapproved of what they were doing. They knew it was wrong. But they also knew it was a matter of national prestige, and was good for their careers. The Jesuits have a saying: ‘For the greater glory of God.’ This is what happened here.”

God and goodness, of course, had nothing to do with the abomination of the GDR’s State Plan 14:25.


One of the many Stasi files showing the terrible truth

It was from 1990 that the many who spoke out against the massive deception on which GDR sport was built felt truly free to do so. Two decades on from reunification, there are those who must stay silent for contractual reasons that affect their livelihoods and welfare and those prefer to stay silent rather than tell the truth that unfolded at the expense of others who were robbed of their rightful claim to history.

And there are former athletes who cannot lead normal lives, who live in pain, who take daily medication to help them to cope with the fallout of the poison pumped into their bodies.

In 2009, on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Deutsche Welle reported the case of Berlin resident Birgit Boese, for whom just getting to and from work is a triumph. Noted the report: The 48-year-old former athlete depends on crutches to get around, and she and her husband have to forego visits together to the theatre, movies or local swimming pool. “Because of the pain, we can’t really take part in public life,” she told DW.

Once groomed to show the world that the GDR was best at shot put, Boese now suffers from an irregular heartbeat, high-blood pressure, diabetes, nerve damage, kidney problems, “and a list of other ailments that have made her all but an invalid”. Her journey through a nightmare started when she was just 11, when she started at sports school and was told to take the little blue pills that fed the East German medals machine.

Boese and 183 other victims of State Plan 14:25 were awarded compensation in 2006 from the German Olympic Sports Organisation (DOSB) and the drug company Jenapharm. Each received 9,250 euros from the pharmaceutical company in an out-of-court settlement and 170 of the plaintiffs were paid another 9,250 euros from the DOSB. Said Boese:

“It helped, sure. But for those with chronic illnesses and who have to pay out of pocket for medications, the money didn’t go that far.”

Officialdom in swimming has taken a ‘let-sleeping-dogs-lie’ approach to all of the above. This year, there were plenty of signs that Germany has long moved on: at the European Championships in Berlin in August, the corridors down which athletes, coaches media, public and others flowed to get to the stands were lined with an exhibition that related the story of the GDR’s swimming past, the Oral Turinabol and what came of it all.

Alongside the billboard presentations were stands belonging to NADA, the German anti-doping agency. There were brochures for parents and other brochures for their athletic offspring, agents were on call to answer questions and information was abundantly available. Bravo!

Germany has had a tough time keeping up in world waters of late but it has reached a deeper understanding with its past, settled on a better course – and can be proud of having done so.

A Different Perspective

What suited the GDR - Photo Courtesy: NT Archive gdrsuit-1

What suited the GDR – Photo Courtesy: NT Archive/Craig Lord

Long gone is the time to stop portraying 14 to 16-year-old victims of abuse as thieves, cheats and deceivers (that thought as pertinent today as it was back in the days of the GDR and the 1990s).  Those whose names flood the books of swimming records and results from the 1970s and 1980s grew up in a time and a place and in circumstances that put a torch to suggestions that they had a choice, could have objected, could have told someone, could have gone home told their parents and expected their parents to step in.

This was a country, at the political level and beyond sport, in which, some objectors who later developed cancer believe that they were deliberately exposed to radiation while waiting to be called for interrogation; a country in which many were shot dead while trying to escape to a place of choice through barbed-wire barricades.

Down the years, I have met many of the GDR’s swim champions and medallists. In two cases, I detected a troubling tone of self-justification and defence of an indefensible system. In the vast bulk of cases, the swimmers, polite, pleasant, well-educated and getting on with what might be described as “ordinary lives” – beyond the pills and potions and sports-related problems that they endure – manage to speak with dignity and patience about painful episodes in their lives.

Some of them may well have gold medals but they are all victims to one degree of another. Victims of the likes of Kipke, who, like them, has kept his international honour in official terms.

When this author’s now-sleeping website SwimVortex joined hands with Swimming World in 2013 to call for a better way of dealing with the past, it was to call on officialdom to seek a way of recognising Babashoff, Brigitha and Co without making Ender and Co victims all over again. Reconciliation and recognition was the proposed path.

Our purpose was clear: let the record stand – alongside every footnote necessary to make sport an honest place for future generations while treating victims on all sides with the dignity and recognition that they deserve.

Official silence has followed and the unanimous vote of the FINA Media Commission in January 2014 for the ruling FINA Bureau to consider the proposal along with a request to remove the honours of the criminally convicted such as Dr Lothar Kipke has never elicited a response.

On the day that Germany celebrates the first 30 years of a new beginning, may that silence deafen those who have had the power but not the courage to act.



Take The Podium screenshot – The Olympic Channel

This year, the Olympic Movement through the Olympic Channel launched a campaign called Take The Podium: Olympic Medals Finding Their Rightful Owner

It is a campaign in which those who are moved up the medal positions or onto the podium are honoured at ceremonies recognising the moment stolen from them.

All the cases are recent and many stem from doping cases caught in resetting of samples from Games held in this Century.

The record of the GDR and all the evidence that goes alongside it is overwhelming. Yet not a single victim, all sides, has been asked to join in a reconciliation effort that invites them to Take The Podium, for medals to finds their rightful owners nor for the harm to health of athletes that spills beyond their own generation.

Not a single move has been made by Olympic bosses to instruct its member federations to scour their list of honorees and remove any proven to have doped, duped and harmed athletes.

Until that happens, Take the Podium will be little more than the propaganda of a prevailing need to makes the Games look good and wholesome without ever having put right the tremendous wrongs go history.

The case of Mary Cain this week, highlighted in this exclusive in the New York Times, reminds us of the long-term abuse of athletes and begs the question, if those abused today are victims who serve justice and change to flow, how come nothing is being done about abuses meted out to under-age swimmers on various levels in our time and on their watch and our’s?

The Struggle Is Still On


Brigitte Berendonk – Von Der Forschung Zum Betrug

In Katowice this past week, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) held its 5th Conference on Doping in Sport. It marked the moment Beckie Scott left the chair of the organisation’s Athletes Commission.

As AP put it: “Bruised, berated and criticized by some colleagues over a six-year tenure at the worldwide drug-fighting agency, the head of the WADA athlete’s committee left on her own terms.

Said Scott to the blazers: “I’m going to remind you for one last time. You have thousands upon thousands of athletes counting on you to do right by them. Not by any other stakeholder, but by them.”

“My hope is that going forward, voices that challenge or dissent will be heard and taken into consideration rather than undermined or dismissed. And my hope is that going forward, balance and independence will be restored to these tables, so that all interests and priorities here are aligned with equality of opportunity and fairness, rather than the business of sport.”

Last year, Scott resigned her position from the agency’s compliance committee, disgusted with its decision to reinstate Russia’s banned anti-doping committee in exchange for a promise of receiving data from its Moscow lab. That story is not over yet either.

Reporting on the culture that led to Scott’s resignation, AP used these words, which sub up a great many articles this author has penned down the years:

“Roles in these worldwide sports organizations are accompanied by perks, new friends and expectations that don’t always align with the priorities of the people, especially athletes, who elect their representatives. But once members are inside the circle, if they don’t toe the line, they receive messages — some obvious, others more subtle — that their recalcitrance is not appreciated. It happened a lot to Scott over six years.”

Scott told AP: “You’re certainly treated very well, but I think with that comes expectations that you’re a member of the club. For me, I felt that I was here as a representative of the athletes. And they’re not part of this club.”

Her parting thoughts as she contemplated the gathering of WADA suits, was that she had been there to “remind them of what they’re here for and who they’re supposed to be making decisions on behalf of.” She added:

“That’s been lost for years. Geopolitics and the business of sports have trumped athletes for too long, and it’s time to get back to representing athletes. And if that’s not happening here, then what’s the point?”

This article, a partwork, is reproduced by Swimming World with permission and is subject to Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved, Craig Lord

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john m
john m
4 years ago

Incredibly well delineated – poignantly detailed. Tie-in to present heightens re-awareness , too. Fantastic, vitally needed accounting of what occurred. – jmr

Michael Stott
4 years ago

Excellent concise summary of doping issues that need constant attention by a man who has documented and championed doping change. Must reading for anyone with even a passing interest in competitive swimming.

Richard Ortiz
Richard Ortiz
4 years ago

Well, here we are, 30 years after the wall went down. Even after this amount of time, I am still shocked that this was allowed to happen. The evidence was there even if the PROOF was not. I wonder if the internet had been around back then and the swim fans were as vocal then as they are now, if the travesty would have been stopped out of fear from the DDR officials????
As a teenager, I remember as clearly now everything that happened then. The ugly but powerful strokes. The voices! The physiques. The unnatural drop in times. The fact that there was always someone new in the wings waiting to take the place of the “current” champion. The swimmer’s hope that maybe they could beat the DDR athletes mixed in with an unhealthy dose of sad resignation that probably not. And mostly, that after a few years of utter domination, acceptance followed. Acceptance that this was now the norm. Acceptance that no one was was going to step up for the “clean” swimmers – especially the federations and national Olympic committees.
When I go onto Youtube and watch over and over the former DDR athletes being interviewed, their insistence that they were clean and that the other athletes are nothing more than jealous – IGNORING the Stassi papers and the numbers proving otherwise.
One point I want to mention (and I think it was you who brought this up a few years back), was the future time predictions that the DDR coaches had forecast for their female swimmers. Do you remember this? If it was you, could you please print those numbers again? I remember that the times were ridiculously fast but very doable with athletes pumped with PEDs.
I could write more but I will let this stand. Please accept my sincerest gratitude for all of the years you spent fighting this beast. The “new” generation will never understand how the “older” generations were robbed of their rightful place on the podium as well as in the books, magazines and newsprint of the worldwide media. Thank you!

4 years ago

Keep fighting the good fight. You are our Champion.

Emma Swanwick
Emma Swanwick
4 years ago

Hi Craig, yet again you have put forward an incredible piece of work that is informative, non judgemental but highlights the wrongs done within the sport. The structure that was outlined, by those documents in the ais library, showed an incredible structure of performance development of which the doping was an integral part, to the benefit of the state regardless of the cost to the individual. Even the Russians were surprised at the detail of the program that the DDR ran. My concern has been that much of this knowledge did not die when the Berlin Wall came down, instead it moved underground, and Continued to be used in other countries as well as “free Germany” and continued to taint swimming for many years. Wada and fina in my humble opinion also helped cover up some of this over the years as high profile swimmers faltered in their careers and used means to help maintain the performance requirements of the political needs of the governing bodies…

Ørjan Madsen
Ørjan Madsen
4 years ago
Reply to  Craig Lord

Hi Craig.
Much could be said about your article. I will say this:
Extremely well written, balanced, informative. A must read for every coach.

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