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article imageEast Germany's doping victims set to get 10.5 mn euros of aid

By Ryland James (AFP)     Mar 9, 2016 in Sports

Angela Merkel's government on Wednesday took a step towards atoning for East Germany's murky past by approving 10.5 million euros ($11.5m) of aid for victims of the Communist state's doping programme.

Hundreds of former sportsmen and women in Germany suffer from ailments as a direct result of taking performance-enhancing substances, often under duress, to win sporting glory for the now defunct German Democratic Republic (GDR) from 1965 to 1989.

Since German reunification in 1990, successive governments have struggled to deal with the 1,000 known cases of people whose health has been damaged after being forced to take part in the GDR's doping programme, which was known as State Plan 14.25.

"As of today, we have taken a decisive step closer to our target of setting up a new fund for the victims of East German doping," said Germany's Interior minister Thomas de Maiziere.

"There is an urgency, given the difficult fate of many GDR victims and their very poor health.

"I am confident that we will succeed in adopting a basis for the new fund in the summer and it will be possible to make payments in the second half of the year," added the minister.

Each of the victims stand to receive 10,500 euros in aid.

In 2002, the German government had paid out around two million euros of aid to the 194 cases that were known at the time.

Ines Giepel, a former GDR sprinter who is president of the Berlin-based Help for Victims of Doping (DOH), says the charity has been flooded by pleas for help.

Many sports people have spoken out after years of silence due to shame.

"Since the Bundestag's decision (to bring in the law) in early December 2015, the number of applications has been immense from across the complete range of sports," said Giepel.

"And it is a sign of the political recognition that victims are coming forward after years of being silent because of shame.

"(Some victims) are reporting that alongside doping, there were also cases of sexual abuse, physical violence and sadism."

- Not just vitamins -

The DOH receives daily applications from former athletes suffering from a range of ailments after taking the GDR-manufactured anabolic steroid Oral Turinabol.

In many cases, the athletes were told the tablets were simply vitamins and any questions about the drugs were stonewalled by the authorities.

The drug boosted performance and slashed recovery times, but its side-effects were disastrous.

A recent example is former Olympic weightlifting medalist and world recordholder Gerd Bonk, who died aged 63 in 2014 after suffering from diabetes, liver failure and extensive organ damage.

He won 15 Olympic or world championship medals for the GDR in the 1970s, but had to retire from his job as a car mechanic aged just 37 due to poor health.

But not everyone in Germany is willing to take responsibility for the actions of the former GDR.

De Maziere said the money for the new fund will come exclusively from the government while the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) has declined to contribute.

"There is no participation from the DOSB and that is something I regret," he said.

Giepel is equally unimpressed that Germany's sports body has refused the chance to atone for their country's past.

"It says a lot that organised sport has denied any support for the victims of doping," she said.

"From the DOSB there is not a word and not a cent."

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