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  Thursday, 8 August, 2002, 12:47 GMT 13:47 UK
Baumann back where he belongs
Dieter Baumann (left) follows Spain's Jose Manuel Martinez across the line
Baumann (left) took silver in front of his home crowd

When is a convicted drug cheat not a drug cheat?

Usually when they hail from your country.

To most British fans, Dieter Baumann's 10,000m silver medal at the European Championships on Wednesday is tarnished by his recent two-year ban for using banned steroids.

But to the 40,000 German fans who roared him on at the Olympiastadion, Baumann is a hero - an innocent man who was the victim of his own anti-doping stance.

Sound ridiculous?

Believe me, it's not. And Baumann's story serves as a cautionary tale for Paula Radcliffe.

Baumann's positive test for nandrolone in out-of-competition samples in October and November 1999 was shocking for more than the usual reasons.

The 1992 Olympic 5,000m champion was Germany's most vehement anti-drugs campaigner, arguing for long, automatic bans for any athletes caught using banned substances.

Punishment stood

The country spent the 1990s trying to come to terms with the post-Cold War revelations that most of the former East German track and field stars had been systematically doping with the full consent of the sport's governing bodies.

But Baumann? Never. It was like hearing that Radcliffe had been using EPO.

That was just the start. The stunned Baumann protested his innocence, offered US$100,000 to anyone who could produce evidence to clear him and set about trying to prove that he was clean.

He launched his own investigation, running checks on 20 butchers' shops in his home town of Tuebingen to see if he could have ingested the nandrolone through contaminated meat.

That drew a blank. The answer lay closer to home, he claimed, in a tube of toothpaste from his bathroom that had been injected with the drug.

Gold medallist Paula Radcliffe
Radcliffe has campaigned against drug users

The world guffawed. What was this? Someone had nobbled his toothpaste?

In the long list of dodgy excuses, it seemed to be right up there with Dennis Mitchell's explanation for illegal levels of testosterone in his body: five bottles of beer and non-stop sex with his wife the night before the test.

Except the evidence began to pile up that Baumann had indeed been "'roid-raided".

Backed by German officials

Tests were carried out on the tube in question. It was found to contain 2,000 nanogrammes of nandrolone. Fluoride you expect, maybe baking soda. But an anabolic steroid?

German officials leapt to Baumann's defence.

"The substance was injected into the tube," confirmed Wilhelm Schaenzer, head of the Cologne Institute for Biochemistry. "There has to be a culprit."

The president of the German Athletics Federation (DLV), Helmut Digel, agreed.

"In the language of the common man, we have a criminal act in front of us."

So who could have been responsible? Baumann suggested that his stringent anti-drugs campaign had stirred passions, that someone had decided to take revenge.

The DLV were convinced and refused to ban him. That in turn led to accusations from former East German athletes that Baumann's close friendship with Digel had resulted in him getting special treatment.


Baumann was outspoken on drugs in Germany, and then something strange happened to him
Paula Radcliffe

The sport's global governing body, the IAAF, holds that an athlete is responsible for any substance found in his or her own body.

So, on the eve of the Sydney Olympics, they banned Baumann from international competition for two years.

Despite Baumann's attempts through the Stuttgart courts to get the ban declared void and claim compensation from the IAAF, the punishment stood.

Wednesday night's 10,000m was his first major race since the ban ended in January this year.

And what does Radcliffe have to do with all this?

Plenty. She too is a high-profile anti-drugs campaigner, a woman brave enough to wave a banner which said, "EPO cheats out" at disgraced 5,000m world champion Olga Yegorova.

Just two days after Radcliffe smashed the European 10,000m record here in Munich she was forced to deny whispers which claimed her improved performance was down to banned drugs.

Radcliffe is clean as a whistle. She has tested negative time after time, and wears a red ribbon on her vest when competing to highlight her call for mandatory blood testing for all athletes.

But Baumann's case has her running scared.

"There is a risk in rocking the boat, and I realise I am a target for those who have something to hide," she says.

"Baumann was outspoken on drugs in Germany, and then something strange happened to him.

"I think he was set up. You have to be very careful."


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