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Sport's greatest cover-up

By Peter Allden
Producer, Sport's Greatest Cover Up - a two part Discovery special for BBC World Service

With the World Athletics Championships in Berlin looming, BBC Science reporter Matt McGrath went to investigate the legacy of East Germany's sporting system.

East German medal-winner

At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, East Germany won 25 medals. Twenty years later in Seoul, while the Soviet Union headed the medals table, second place went to a nation of just 17 million people - the German Democratic Republic.

To achieve this success, the East German state ensured that it had the best of everything - facilities and equipment, coaches and medical back-up, psychological testing and dietary supplements.

However, it was the scale of state-sponsored doping - State Plan 14.25 - that set East Germany apart.

Over a 20-year period in the 1970s and 1980s, up to 10,000 athletes were chemically doped. Each year hundreds of thousands of steroid pills were administered.

At its height, the programme employed up to 1,500 scientists and doctors. This was all carried out under the utmost secrecy - brutally enforced by the East German secret police, the Stasi.

Matt spoke to Birgit Boese, who at just 11 years of age found herself in the doping programme. She now suffers from a multitude of debilitating physical problems.

Britain's Sharron Davies talks in our first programme about what it was like competing against her East German rivals at the Moscow Olympics in 1980.

Dick Pound, a fomer vice-president of the International Olympic Committee admits that the IOC made mistakes in dealing with the doping allegations, and we also hear from one of the scientists, Rainer Hartwich, who helped develop the drugs that became so widely distributed.

Our second programme looks at what happened after the Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Ines Geipel
Ines Geipel says those affected feel let down by German authorities

Ines Geipel, a former world record holder in the 4x100m relay, explains how those affected feel that they have been let down by the German authorities.

A current member of the German Parliament, Winfried Hermann, agrees and feels that a new enquiry should look at all aspects of State Plan 14.25.

Kathrin Boron, a four-time Olympic rowing gold medallist was born in East Germany but has only ever competed for a unified German team.

She argues that the time for recrimination has past, but fomer athletes like Ines Geipel feel they are still to receive adequate legal redress and financial compensation.

There are many victims of Sport's Greatest Cover Up. Competitors such as Davies missed out on the chance of Olympic glory, but many victorious East Germans competitors are also victims - victims of a ruthless system that sought victory at any cost.

Hundreds have been left with long-term health problems, the result, almost certainly, of the drugs they were given throughout their athletic careers.

The real tragedy for sport in general is that 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the East German sports structure, the issue of drugs in sport is still very much in the news.

see also
Anger grows over anti-doping code
04 Feb 09 |  Sport Homepage
Seven Russians handed doping bans
20 Oct 08 |  Athletics
Jamaica concern over doping tests
13 Aug 08 |  Athletics
Doping blamed for recent records
30 Jun 08 |  Swimming
Positive Beijing tests confirmed
08 Jul 09 |  Olympics
Olympics set for new doping rule
06 Jun 08 |  Beijing 2008
Germany country profile
19 Mar 12 |  Country profiles
Athletics on the BBC
21 Apr 11 |  Athletics

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