Doping in the DDR

Doping has always been a problem in competitions. Doping is taking performance enhancing drugs that will give them an unfair advantage over the other sporters. Steroids are especially popular when it comes to doping. Steroids increase the muscles of the athlete which allow him exceed the boundaries that he had before taking steroids. In 1978 Renate Neufeld, a 19 year old sprinter that had fled to west Germany, told the public about the doping in the DDR. This was one of sport’s greatest cover ups; for years the east-German athletes had been taking steroids without anyone finding out about it. The DDR had won 25 medals, of which all were won with the help of drugs. This was not only unfair, there was a moral issue; the athletes’ lives were being risked just for winning. The government was even helping the teams to get the drugs and keep it covered. This was probably due to the rivalry between the West and the East, the cold war. 1

In the DDR Sport and Fitness have always been, beside the school education, the most important things when the children were being brought up. The talented athletes were being trained until perfection. They were celebrated, not only for their outstanding performance, but rather as an example for the education and the skills of the socialistic state’s workers and farmers. The sporters came from all different social classes. Already in kindergarten age, the children get tested for any special talents. And if one was lucky enough to have a special talent, the state made sure one would get the best education that they had, which could be high schools, universities or even sport schools. In this way, many famous athletes were trained to bring phenomenal performances, in which the physical limitations were to great degree exceeded. Doping made this possible and was used in nearly all sports.

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The sporters took drugs under medical supervision; using the newest scientific studies, to achieve a huge performance enhancement. The athletes were trained in special sport facilities, where they could live and finish school, this way they were able to keep the doping a secret. Only years later after the fall of the wall separating Berlin and the occurrence of doping’s long-term effects on the athletes, details were discovered of East-Germany’s doping. They had given many of their athletes anabolic steroids, especially the orally taken Turinabol. Turinabol is a steroid that is taken as a tablet. The east-German athletes had Turinabol available as much as they wanted, because it was being produced in their own medical research and production departments. The sporters did not always know that they were being doped; even t1en year old children got Turinabol hidden in their food. Even in East-Germany one needed a prescription to get Turinabol, which shows how deep some of the doctors were involved in this. They handed out prescriptions for Turinabol; knowing what it would be used for. 2

Anabolic-androgenic steroids, also know as AAS, is a drug that, when taken, acts as an artificial male sex hormone, testosterone. Testosterone is the male sex hormone that is produced in the testis of a man. Testosterone signals the body to develop the testis and the prostate as well as muscles, bone mass, hair growth and other male characteristics. Just like the natural testosterone made in our bodies, AAS builds up more muscles by increasing protein synthesis in the cells, meaning that more protein is produced by the cells. If one trains enough the extra protein will turn into muscles; making the athlete as strong as he/she has ever been. AAS can be taken in many different ways, for example, they can be taken orally as pills or as a fluid they can be injected.

They athletes took the drugs in cycles, where the sporters would take the drugs an a regular basis for periods of weeks or months. After that they would have a period where they wouldn’t take the drugs at all. They reason for using the cycle method was to beat the drug tests. The athletes had to be on cycles as long as possible, before stopping when a drug test was scheduled. The athletes of the DDR benefited from the Turinabol, because the body breaks it down and excretes it very quickly. This made it very easy for the athletes to hide the drugs from everybody. However, the longer the cycles of drugs were, the harder it was for the body to recover from the steroids, meaning that the longer the cycles were the worse it was for the athletes’ health.

Taking steroids has many affects on the body; the increase of muscle tissue is only one them. As it is mimics a sex hormone, it will influence the things that the sex hormones are in charge. If athletes were to take steroids they would have to face some serious irreversible damage to their bodies. The risks for the male athletes would be that their testis would start to shrink, a reduced sperm count, infertility, baldness, prostate cancer and they would also develop female characteristics, such as breasts. From female athletes there are the same risks just the other way around. The testosterone would start changing the women’s body, giving it more male characteristics. Some affects are growth of facial hair, male-patterned baldness, changes in the menstrual cycle, enlargement of the clitoris and a deepened voice. Steroids are especially dangerous when given to adolescents. 3 4

After the fall of the wall more and more details about doping in East-Germany were discovered. Beside the bodily changes that I just named, the top athletes also had miscarriages and disabled children as result to doping. According to some east-German athletes already children and teenagers with extraordinary talents were given doping, without them or their parents knowing about it. Especially in swimming doping was nothing special. The female swimmers all had strong male characteristics. The doped athletes were not only supposed to win all kind medals, but also experiment with different anabolics for the DDR’s medical department.

This way they were able to find out how specific anabolics work and what their affects were. One could say that the athletes were being used as guinea pigs. Using doping privately was impossible, because the only doping available was at the state’s own medical research centers, nothing could be imported from abroad. In terms of socialistic strategy, the state itself ordered the doping and controlled whether the athletes were taking them or not. There were documents found that were titled: “doping guidelines for the swimmers”, in which the East German government had decided what drugs and how much the sporters will be taking. 5

Renate Neufeld was 17 when she joined the sports club/ sports school KJS. She had to sign several documents, in which stood that she was not allowed to tell anyone anything about the club, that including her parents. The KJS was a very special sports club that had a school included in the club. This sports school trained the future Olympic stars. Whoever finished this school was sure to have athletic success and a place at one of the best universities. Renate Neufeld made it into this school as a young sprinter. She was forced to learn perfect Russian and they did thorough background checks, whether she had relatives in the West and whether her family was a strong follower of the socialistic party. She even had to go through tests to see whether she had a socialistic personality.

The club had a very strict policy; they took blood tests of Neufeld twice a week to see how she was doing. Everyone who couldn’t cope with the hard training had to leave; the school education became less important than the physical performance. One day she got a box of pills from her coach, he told her they were vitamin pills, but at the same time she was reminded of her professional discretion. She took 2-3 pills a week and quickly noticed that her thighs were becoming bigger and started to hurt. Her voice was starting to change and she started to grow and beard. When a friend noticed these changes she said: “so now you’re also taking them”. It was forbidden for Neufeld to go to doctor outside of her school campus and the school doctor reasoned her voice change with a cold and her pain with a normal muscle ache. Renate Neufeld was scared and stopped taking the pills she hid them and pretended to have taken them.

Her coach soon noticed and kept on asking her whether she had been taking the pills. When they found out she was refusing to take the pills, she was sent to the secret police and was accused of not wanting to show her best performance. She also had to go to the club’s own psychiatrist and was told there that if she wouldn’t improve she would be kicked out of the school and despite her school degree she would have to work as a cleaning lady in some factory.. After all of this she decided to flee to the west with her fianc�. She took the pills with her and showed them a doctor in West-Germany. They found that it was Turinabol. Her family stayed behind, in the DDR, and was harshly punished, her father was fired, and her sister was kicked out of her university. 6

In the end, one cannot blame the athletes for doping. It was not them who decided to play unfair; it was the Government of the DDR who forced their talented athletes to take drugs. The athletes were most of the time not even told that they were taking steroids and if they were told they had no other choice; they could either take the drugs or just leave the team and go do something else. The steroids ruined the sporters lives, the coaches were basically abusing their athletes; seriously risking their lives without even telling them. This was only possible because the whole government was involved. It was basically a dictatorship; they could have told the police, but not the coaches would have gone to jail but the athlete would have for not keeping quiet.

This was a general problem with DDR; the solcialistic government was controlling everybody and telling them what to do, even though it was life threatening. The DDR made their own steroid drug specifically for their athletes, which shows how much they wanted to win against the other nations. However, they did not care about the health of their own athletes and that is what I think is the worst part of the doping. Doping may make a sport useless because it makes it unfair, but destroying other people’s lives just to win a medal is in my opinion the worst thing one can do. And it gets even worse; knowing that a whole government is behind the doping. I think this ruins the sport, sport competitions are for fun; it is not war; where people sacrifice their lives just to win against another country

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Doping in the DDR. (2017, Dec 25). Retrieved from