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The BBC's Rob Broomby reports
"His words caused commotion on the benches opposite, where some of the female victims of the doping programme sat"
 real 28k

Friday, 5 May, 2000, 21:03 GMT 22:03 UK
Apology over East German doping
Manfred Ewald
Ewald headed the East German sports federation for 26 years
A leading former East German sports official has made a courtroom apology to athletes for his role in the doping programmes of the 1970s and 1980s.

Dr Manfred Hoeppner said that he had not intended to harm anyone.

I beg those athletes who suffered ill-health to accept my apologies

Dr Manfred Hoeppner
Dr Hoeppner and the former head of East German sports federation, Manfred Ewald, are on trial at a Berlin regional court accused of damaging the health of 142 women athletes.

But athletes watching the trial said they were not satisfied with apology.

Promoting communism

Mr Ewald and Dr Hoeppner allegedly organised widespread use of anabolic steroids over a long period with approval from the highest level of the government of the German Democratic Republic.

Manfred Hoeppner
Hoeppner: Apology not accepted
Former East German officials have admitted that the GDR saw sport as a vehicle to promote communism, and used a systematic doping programme to enhance the performance of athletes until German unification in 1990.

Dr Hoeppner headed a committee euphemistically named the Working Group on Supporting Means.

The athletes say they have suffered lasting side effects, such as the development of male characteristics and gynaecological problems.

Asking for forgiveness

In a statement to the court Dr Hoeppner said: "I deeply regret that I was not able to protect all athletes from harm. I beg those athletes who suffered ill-health to accept my apologies for this."

For those who were high up, people were nothing but material. I cannot acknowledge this apology

Althlete Innes Geipel
Dr Hoeppner also offered a defence of the doping programme.

"The appropriate use of supporting means worked for the majority of East German athletes," he said.

Dr Hoeppner did not dispute that he had recommended the use of banned drugs but said he had never acted against the laws of the GDR.


Former shotput champion Heidi Krieger
Former shot-put champion Heidi Krieger says she was forced to have a sex change
Speaking outside the court, Innes Geipel, a former record-holding sprinter, said Dr Hoeppner's his excuses were not acceptable and that he had shown he was not ready to accept the historical truth.

"For those who were high up, people were nothing but material," Ms Geipel said.

Coaches and doctors have previously faced trial over the doping programme, but Mr Ewald, also a former president of East Germany's National Olympic Committee, is the first senior party official to be tried over the programme.

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