TV COMM: The favorite, the world record holder, the East German girl…
NARRATOR: They rose from oblivion… and conquered the world.
TV COMM: Oh and that one’s a long, long throw.
NARRATOR: A generation of female athletes who seemed to win every event they entered.
In the 1970s, East Germany presented itself as a nation of sports fanatics—healthy members of a socialist paradise.
But beneath the robust surface lay a dark and dangerous secret.
TESSA SANDERSON: They just bunged their shirts on and it looked so odd because they were bigger than some of the men.
NARRATOR: Their unusual size and strength were created by a national doping program that demanded victory at all costs.
WERNER FRANKE: It was German; it was orderly; it was written up.
NARRATOR: …and it came at a terrible price for the women who were forced to participate.
WERNER FRANKE: These changes of the physique of a woman, this disastrous bodily hair growth, to have the deepening of the voice.
WENDY BOGLIOLI: It was systematic doping, it was cheating and, you know what, there are consequences when you cheat.
NARRATOR: Decades later, with doping once again dominating the news, the athletes are finally speaking out, revealing a tale of experimentation, cruelty and intimidation unparalleled in the history of sports.
TITLE: DOPING FOR GOLD
NARRATOR: In 1961, communist East Germany built a wall to stop its citizens from fleeing to the West.
Anyone attempting to defect was shot on sight.
Even planning an escape was grounds for imprisonment.
By the 70s, the Berlin wall was part of a fortified border that split Germany in two. Officially, it kept the West out.
But in reality, it kept East German citizens in while their government sought ways to demonstrate communist superiority to the rest of the world.
Rare glimpses of life behind the Wall suggested a sporting revolution.
Talented children were handpicked for special sports schools. Coaches and doctors were employed full-time to train them.
Sports festivals became highly anticipated national events.
As a promising ten-year-old, Ute Krause joined the Magdeburg school to be trained as a swimmer.
UTE KRAUSE: Translation: I had this idea that we’d be doing sport all day instead of reading and writing and arithmetic, we’d spend the whole day dancing, ice skating, doing gymnastics, swimming. That was my fantasy and I thought it was going to be amazing.
NARRATOR: Ten-year-old Rica Reinisch left her family to go to the Dresden school as a boarder.
RICA REINISCH: Translation: I was over the moon. For me it was something really amazing and that’s also how they sold it to us.
NARRATOR: The student athletes participated in major sports shows and festivals. The best of the best got to compete in the Spartacus Games in Leipzig—a showcase of the country’s physical health.
UTE KRAUSE: Translation: I can remember it was really something to go to the Spartacus Games and especially to be a prize winner.
NARRATOR: Shows like these were carefully choreographed to build support for the socialist state, and distract the East Germans from the economic boom on the other side of the wall.
Marchers paid homage to leaders who promised them secure jobs and welfare perks as a reward for their athletic prowess.
Successful athletes enjoyed freedoms not available to their fellow citizens. This was the communist equivalent of fame and fortune—they became the public face of the German Democratic Republic.
KATHARINA BULLIN: Translation: You get to travel abroad, to go to capitalist countries. I went to Italy when I was 15. Going to Italy was unheard of, impossible for the average GDR citizen.
NARRATOR: Katharina Bullin joined the dynamo club in Berlin when she was 13.
Two years later, she was playing volleyball for the junior national team.
KATHARINA BULLIN: Translation: I had privileges; I got great food; bananas, oranges. One just couldn’t get them normally. Sometimes I felt embarrassed and I’d sneak food home with me.
NARRATOR: But good food and training were only the beginning. By 1974, and with the Montreal Olympics only two years away, Party leaders met with the East German Sports Performance Committee to decide how best to guarantee gold medals and international glory.
What they came up with was “state plan theme 14-25.” The protocol was based on the work of chemists and pharmacologists at a secret lab in Leipzig.
For six years, the scientists had been testing male hormones on one of their female Olympic stars—a shot putter named Margitta Gummel.
Bolstered by the hormones, which were given to her in a pill called Oral Turinabol, Margitta improved her throws by more than 8 feet between the ‘68 and ‘72 Games.
Oral-Turinabol, or O-T, was an anabolic steroid derived from testosterone. Produced by the state-run pharmaceutical company, Jenapharm, it would now be given to other promising athletes.
O-T and other anabolic steroids increase muscle mass and hasten recovery time, allowing athletes to train harder and build up more strength.
And because they are similar to testosterone, they have a greater impact on women, who have less real testosterone in their bodies to begin with.
By 1974, Manfred Hoeppner was the East German sports program’s chief doctor. His job was to ensure that sports doctors across the country received drugs for their athletes.
To prevent questions, the athletes were not told what pills they were getting. Club doctors like Ulrich Suender took care of the distribution.
ULRICH SUENDER: Translation: The word “doping” just wasn’t used. In the GDR the word doping didn’t exist. These were “supporting drugs,” they “supported” training. That made it sound much better.
NARRATOR: For the youngest athletes, the pills were slipped in with other, less potent supplements.
RICA REINISCH: Translation: We usually got the tablets after very hard water-training sessions. Vitamin C, Vitamin B, potassium, calcium, magnesium, all kinds of pills. It was a real cupful.
UTE KRAUSE: Translation: There was an unspoken taboo about asking questions about these things because if you asked questions, you were put down with nasty remarks or given a real telling off.
NARRATOR: Many of the girls had barely reached puberty when they began receiving the hormone pills. Their parents, too, were kept in the dark.
ULRICH SUENDER: Translation: It was only talked about when the parents themselves asked. And even then they were given evasive answers. And they didn’t ask questions because of course they believed that doctors were supervising everything so how could there by any serious consequences.
NARRATOR: As the ’76 Games drew closer, East German expectations were high. 3000 coaches had 10,000 young athletes in their care.
Despite a chronic shortage of hard currency, the government pored money into gymnastics, track and field, cycling, rowing, swimming and volleyball.
And the anabolic steroids continued to flow. The drugs were now being given to athletes throughout the Olympic training program.
To maximize muscle strength, the steroids were combined with a punishing training regimen.
KATHARINA BULLIN: Translation: School, training, school, training, you had no time, in fact the word free time didn’t exist. Everything was an order. Put on your hat or you’ll be punished. Wear a thermal vest or you’ll be punished. After the 1st of October, don’t eat ice cream in public or you’ll be punished.
NARRATOR: The pressure was on. Coaches and doctors were contractually obligated to produce medals.
ULRICH SUENDER: Translation: Each club had clearly defined targets for each sport and what they had to deliver in world championships or at Olympic Games. Afterwards you took stock. For instance, in athletics the club TSC Berlin had to win a gold and a silver medal. The targets were set right at the start of the Olympic cycle.
NARRATOR: As the athletes trained, the scientists at the Sports Science Institute in Leipzig worked to refine their understanding of the drugs.
They studied athletic performance and the biochemistry of movement, always looking for ways to make the steroids more effective.
Ute Krause remembers the lung capacity test well…
UTE KRAUSE: Translation: We swimmers …… And swim and swim against the current until a buzzer went. It didn’t take long before you ran out of air under the mask and your lungs and your muscles and everything hurt.
NARRATOR: Ironically, the Party used a dose of capitalist incentive to ensure that coaches pushed their athletes to the extremes.
ULRICH SUENDER: Translation: This was the basis for how much coaches were paid because their pay was determined by how well their athletes performed in competition.
RICA REINISCH: Translation: It was really exhausting; sometimes you swam until you found your arms were dragging along the bottom of the pool. It was dreadful.
NARRATOR: But it paid off. The Montreal Olympics was the first major international test for the GDR’s doping program… and the East German athletes exceeded all expectations.
East Germany won an incredible 40 gold medals, six more than the powerful Americans.
The female swimmers stood out. East German women won eleven out of thirteen events, crushing the U.S. favorites in the pool.
WENDY BOGLIOLI: They were very strong women; they were very fast; we thought they were machines. Here were four of America’s best athletes ever put together on a team and every single day the East German women were winning every, every event.
NARRATOR: The losses were heartbreaking to the Americans, and suspicions of East German cheating ran rampant. The U.S swimmers only managed one gold—in the freestyle relay—the very last race.
WENDY BOGLIOLI: You had the four of us women that stood up on those blocks and were not going to be denied a gold medal no matter, no matter what.
NARRATOR: The Americans had their gold, but in Berlin, GDR leaders were celebrating a grander victory. East Germany had excelled on the international stage.
The doping program had worked, and the government was taking vigilant steps to ensure its continued success. The entire operation was now closely guarded by the Stasi, the East German security police commanded by Soviet-trained Erich Mielke.
Sports doctors were forced to sign a confidentiality agreement that forbade them from discussing doping with anyone who had not signed.
Stasi informers watched and listened to ensure adherence to the pledge.
Dr. Rainer Hartwich was a Party member and an expert on steroids. Not surprisingly, his skills were in high demand.
DR. RAINER HARTWICH: Translation: Sport was one area in which this small state, the GDR, could really outrun the rest of the world.
NARRATOR: Hartwich joined Jenapharm as head of clinical research. He liaised with the Leipzig scientists and chief sports doctor Manfred Hoeppner.
DR. RAINER HARTWICH: Translation: Secrecy was important because if these things had come out, everyone else would have done it too and the GDR would have lost its head start in sport.
NARRATOR: Doctor Hartwich was one of more than 3,000 Stasi moles within the sport system—scientists, coaches, and even athletes who secretly reported every move they and their colleagues made.
The web of informers meant the athletes had to be wary of what they said—probing questions or dissent were immediately and harshly punished.
KATHARINA BULLIN: Translation: Once I found that a girl at the TSC Club had dared to say something along the lines of “what are they doing to us?” She was more skeptical and less innocent than us. And then I heard that she was going to be dishonorably discharged, kicked out and stripped of everything. That was really, really terrible.
NARRATOR: With hindsight, a dishonorable discharge might have been a small price to pay. Doctors already knew that the drugs could wreak havoc on the girls’ reproductive systems. They kept the knowledge secret, but began giving doped athletes contraceptives as soon as they hit puberty. Rica Reinisch was started at age 12.
RICA REINISCH: Translation: The doctor explained that I should go on the pill so that my periods would be regular. It would help my body get used to the menstrual cycle more quickly which made sense to me.
NARRATOR: The birth control pills served two purposes. They kept the athletes training by giving them regular periods. And, they protected the entire system from the Russian Roulette of steroid-induced pregnancy complications.
DR. ULRICH SUENDER: Translation: It was clear. If you’re on anabolic steroids, you have to be on the pill as well because medial literature said that things like deformities or other disorders could occur.
NARRATOR: Reproductive problems weren’t the only side effects. The Leipzig doctors were uncovering other risks, including heart disease and liver damage.
DR. RAINER HARTWICH: Translation: We knew that certain liver functions could be affected so we did talk about these things and I’m sure they were discussed by those responsible too but they were not put off.
NARRATOR: The consequences were sometimes deadly. In 1972, 16-year-old swimmer Jorg Sievers, was found dead in the pool.
UTE KRAUSE: Translation: Somehow it was never explained or talked about officially. Later on we asked the older athletes and one of them told me that he’d had some kind of cold or infection and that’s why his heart stopped. But the whole thing remained a bit of a mystery.
NARRATOR: At the time, word circulated that Jorg had simply drowned. It would be decades before the truth was finally uncovered.
TV COMM: First round of this javelin competition. Tessa Sanderson.
NARRATOR: Meanwhile, the doping continued. In 1977, the European Athletics Cup final in Helsinki looked like another rout for the GDR.
British champion Tessa Sanderson lost the javelin competition to her East German rival, Olympic gold medalist Ruth Fuchs.
TV COMM: Ruth Fuchs, the leader in the javelin.
TESSA SANDERSON: She was fast, just like she was doing everything different than everybody else was, you know, she’d come round the corner with the javelin, bah bah, and the aggression she had in her throws were just phenomenal.
TV COMM: Ilona Slupianek.
NARRATOR: But then came a setback for the East Germans. 20-year old-shot putter Ilona Slupianek, failed a drug test.
The doping program was plunged into crisis.
Standard GDR protocol required that doping be curtailed two weeks prior to competition—enough time for the athletes’ bodies to eliminate all traces of the drugs. But driven by the need to churn out winners, coaches had been handing out pills until the very last minute.
In East Berlin, it was decreed that from then on, athletes would be prescreened before they left for international events.
Better they be discovered at home, than on the world stage…
Urine samples were sent to a lab near Dresden. If their tests came back positive, athletes would be scratched from the upcoming competition.
The athletes were told that the pre-screening would protect them from false accusations by jealous competitors.
KATHARINA BULLIN: Translation: The story was always the same—that there were nasty capitalist athletes who were using doping drugs to get ahead and back then I thought, that’s terrible, because it’s not about fairness any more then is it? It would never have crossed my mind that they were putting things in our food and our shots, we were so trusting.
NARRATOR: The pre-screening test results were communicated directly to chief sports doctor Manfred Hoeppner.
Code numbers for each athlete meant only Hoeppner knew who they were.
In Dresden, Rica Reinisch was showing remarkable talent in the backstroke. She was assigned to Uwe Neumann, the school’s leading coach, who quickly became like a father to her.
RICA REINISCH: Translation: He’d shown me that if you have problems, if you have concerns, you can come to me anytime. I’m here for you. I’m here for your concerns, for your worries etc.
NARRATOR: What Rica didn’t know was that Neumann was a Stasi informer. He told his handler that Rica was one of his top hopes for the 1980 Olympic Games.
The drugs and training were working, but Rica and many of the other girls were noticing some strange changes in their bodies.
UTE KRAUSE: Translation: I put on weight very quickly, 10, 15 kilos within a few months. What astonished me and frightened and confused me was that I was swimming much faster when my body was actually heavier and more cumbersome.
NARRATOR: The steroids helped the athletes train longer and harder, increasing their muscle mass. The transformations were dramatic…
UTE KRAUSE: Translation: “My god child, you’ve got fat, and what’s happened to your voice?”
RICA REINISCH: Translation: “Rica, is that you? What a deep voice you’ve got”.
KATHARINA BULLIN: Translation: My nose became huge. Then my hands—during puberty my hands changed a lot. My nickname was toilet seat. Sometimes I couldn’t fit into my own trousers because my thighs were so big but I put it down to those 50 hours of training I did.
NARRATOR: Doctor Hoeppner also started getting reports about unusual hair growth.
He examined one girl himself, reporting to the Stasi that she had excessive hair on her face, inner thighs, and below her naval.
Hoeppner recommended that swimmers with deep voices be barred from giving interviews, and banned from jobs where their voices could be heard.
Molecular biologist Werner Franke has studied the reports of the East German doctors. They document disturbing genital abnormalities in addition to the hair growth.
WERNER FRANKE: They have for example clitoris growth. Body hair growth, male type hair growth on the back for example or up on the forefront.
NARRATOR: The consequences of the drug use were obvious, disturbing, and sometimes life-threatening.
But athletes were never told the cause of their health problems. Instead, they were simply dropped from the sports system if their bodies broke down.
Ute Krause had her sights set on the Olympic team, but in response to her doping-related weight gain, she developed an eating disorder and failed to qualify. It was a bitter blow.
UTE KRAUSE: Translation: The Olympics had a special magic for all young people back then and for me particularly. So it was very hard for me to understand that I couldn’t do it any more.
NARRATOR: Ute wasn’t the only swimmer to drop out. Verena Rossberg was also an Olympic hopeful.
But she struggled with the constant pressure of training.
MRS. ROSSBERG: Translation: Some days would be good, other days she’d say the coach wasn’t happy with us. It was always up and down. They were just children after all.
NARRATOR: Verena was good friends with Rica Reinisch. They often spent time together after training.
RICA REINISCH: You know, we talked about boys, fashion, music, we talked about everything but never about training.
NARRATOR: Despite the hard training, Verena’s times failed to improve, and she quit swimming just before the 1980 Moscow Games.
16 years later, at age 32, she died of breast cancer. She left behind two young children, and many questions…
Rica has always wondered if there was a connection between Verena’s swimming and her early death.
She believes the cancer could have been caused by the anabolic steroids that Verena and the others were forced to ingest.
MARIA ROSSBERG: Translation: We did know that they were getting something and Verena, I can’t remember when exactly, but she always talked about vitamin drinks.
RICA REINISCH: Translation: Because she probably didn’t know any different.
NARRATOR: Copies of coach Uwe Neumann’s Stasi reports show that he held both Rica and Verena in high regard. They were his most promising young swimmers.
RICA REINISCH: Translation: “Verena joined the training group as a new member who is a very active swimmer developed very favorably over the past few years.”
NARRATOR: The Stasi files also reveal that Verena, Rica, and the other top swimmers had been heavily doped.
But could the drugs have caused Verena’s cancer? Mrs. Rossberg hopes an analysis of tissue from her daughter’s tumor will provide an answer.
MRS. ROSSBERG: Translation: If the suspicion that the doping could have actually triggered the cancer is correct, of course that would be, you can’t, terrible for me.
NARRATOR: By the late 70s, East German athletics were thriving, and Party leaders boasted of political stability and economic growth. But beneath the veneer of prosperity, citizens faced severe shortages of basic consumer goods.
As times got tough, the Stasi tightened its grip on the population.
With the 1980 Olympics approaching, the State once again expected its top athletes to spark nationalist fever with their success.
The pressure was especially intense at the Stasi’s own Dynamo sports club in Berlin, where Katharina Bullin lived and trained. Katharina broke a bone in her foot, but the team doctor insisted she get back to practice before the cast was even off her leg.
KATHARINA BULLIN: Translation: She stormed into the room and completely overruled the hospital doctor. She ordered what had to be done and when I had to be back on the court.
ULRICH SUENDER: Translation: No medals, no money. If an athlete who could have won gold was injured two weeks before the game that was tough luck for the coach. He would get zilch. It meant four years of hard work for nothing.
TV COMM: It’s taken a month for the relay of 5,000 runners to bring the flame from Olympia in Greece to Moscow.
NARRATOR: The pressure paid off, and the victories arrived in droves. With the U.S. boycotting the Games in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the East Germans won more medals than any other nation but the Russians.
Once again, East German swimmers dominated — setting six world records. 15-year-old Rica Reinisch won three golds!
RICA REINISCH: Translation: When I stood on the podium after the 100m backstroke, I stood there right at the top and thought you really are an Olympic winner. I couldn’t really grasp what that meant. I could have embraced the entire world.
NARRATOR: Katharina also tasted success. The East German volleyball team made it to the finals for the first time, though they had to settle for silver.
KATHARINA BULLIN: Translation: Well I still get goose bumps today. It’s an experience that stays with you. It’s then that you forget all the pain, all the sweat. It’s really rewarding because you are getting international recognition from millions of people.
NARRATOR: Moscow labs tested all competitors for banned drugs, but not one failed. The East Germans had learned their lesson—stopping the use of oral steroids long enough before the games to ensure clean tests.
The GDR doctors replaced the pills with injections of pure artificial testosterone, which kept hormone levels high.
They knew current tests couldn’t differentiate between natural testosterone and artificial, so their athletes couldn’t get caught.
Wilhelm Schaenzer worked at the Olympic committee’s leading anti-doping lab in West Germany. They had a good idea what was going on.
DR. WILHELM SCHAENZER: Translation: In the ‘70s and ‘80s there were no doping controls outside competition. So people used to dope with hard steroids like Methandianone and Stanozolol in the run-up to competitions. They stopped taking these in time and switched to testosterone immediately ahead of the games.
NARRATOR: Rica had heard about male hormones from foreign athletes, but had no idea she herself was taking them, even though some of her older teammates seemed better informed.
RICA REINISCH: Translation: The first time, it was crazy, was during the Olympic Games, where older athletes were making jokes about it, saying “oh it’s time to go and get our shots.” And ignorant as I was, I went and refused to have the jab before the four by 100 meter relay. And afterwards my coach came and said “Rica, either you let them give you the stuff or your four years of training have been for nothing” and that’s when I knew that something wasn’t right.
NARRATOR: Katarina, too, was being pumped with drugs. The doctors said she needed them to cope with her injuries.
KATHARINA BULLIN: Translation: Drips, injections, pills, it was all normal. Nothing strange about it and I wouldn’t have known what to ask because I wasn’t skeptical at all.
NARRATOR: After the Games were over, the side effects began to catch up with her.
KATHARINA BULLIN: Translation: Suddenly we were growing beards and things got really bad after the Olympics. I became really aggressive, probably because we weren’t being doped any more. Now I know that this was also a withdrawal symptom.
NARRATOR: Back in Berlin, Party leaders celebrated once again. Chairman Honnecker gave out awards for service to the fatherland.
But the athletes were beginning to pay for their victories. The hormones were taking their toll on Rica’s Reinisch’s still-developing teenage body.
RICA REINISCH: Translation: I had inflamed ovaries every three months until it became a chronic infection. Sometimes the pain was so bad that I couldn’t swim any more.
NARRATOR: At age 16, Rica collapsed during a competition. Her parents took her to an outside gynecologist, who gave them an ultimatum.
RICA REINISCH: Translation: “If your daughter wants to have children some day and wants to grow up healthy, she should stop competitive sports now.”
NARRATOR: Rica’s family took dramatic action. She was quickly extricated from the influence of her coach and mentor.
RICA REINISCH: Translation: My mother went to the pool and screamed her head off at Uwe Neumann. We weren’t even allowed to say what we knew. “From your clutches,” she said. “I will rescue my daughter from your clutches.” The swimming pool went dead quiet, everyone around us was taken aback. That was, so to speak, my last official deed in the swimming pool.
NARRATOR: By the 1980s, steroid use was growing throughout the sports world, and scientists were fighting a constant battle to catch up with ever-more-sophisticated doping techniques.
At the Pan American games in 1983, organizers asked West German scientists to set up a lab to test for illegal drug use. The results were startling…
DR. WILHELM SCHAENZER: Translation: And the interesting thing was that, specifically at these games, a large number of positive tests became public. At first we mostly caught weightlifters but then also American athletes in particular. So after three days, half the US team left and when they were asked by journalists at the airport why they were leaving, apparently they’d all caught a cold.
NARRATOR: Steroids were becoming pervasive, and all athletes were affected. Javelin thrower Tessa Sanderson was beaten time and again by admitted steroid user Ruth Fuchs. It wasn’t until the ’84 Games in L.A.—which the East Germans boycotted—that Tessa finally won her gold. She did it clean, but even she was tempted.
TESSA SANDERSON: I think some of the British athletes did come under some pressure because, you know, people approached me. Had I not had the grilling that I’d had from my coach, had I not been really overly confident in my talent, maybe, because I wanted to win so badly, maybe I would have said, “well, OK, right I’ll have a go.”
NARRATOR: The opportunity was present, but there were differences between the East German methods and everybody else’s.
WERNER FRANKE: Doping in the West was always a clandestine thing, it was in small circles so it had nothing of the dimension and the thoroughness it had in the East. Doping in the GDR was different from the doping in the West of the world but it was also different from the doping in other parts of the East. It was German, it was orderly, it was bureaucratic, it was written up.
NARRATOR: Yet despite the bureaucracy, or perhaps because of it, the East Germans were able to keep their doping a secret. In May of 1985, East Berlin hosted the international Olympic committee for its 90th general assembly.
Delegates had no idea that less than a hundred miles away in Leipzig, GDR scientists were working harder than ever to cheat the system.
One new drug they developed, called STS 6-4-6, caused male characteristics in women at a rate sixteen times that of Oral Turinabol.
STS 6-4-6 was never approved for human consumption, yet for years, it was manufactured by Jenapharm and distributed to athletes through Rainer Hartwich’s clinical research department.
DR. RAINER HARTWICH: Translation: I didn’t know what these substances did, but then I saw that they were being fed to young people nonetheless and for me that was the point at which I couldn’t go along with it any more.
NARRATOR: Hartwich eventually filed a complaint with his Stasi handler.
His criticism caused a stir, but ultimately, Chief of Sport Manfred Ewald insisted the drugs were necessary, and ordered sixty three thousand additional tablets.
Shot putter Heidi Krieger could well have been a recipient. She trained at the same facility as Katarina Bullin—the Dynamo Club in Berlin.
Heidi won a gold medal with a throw of 69.2 feet at the 1986 European Athletics Championships.
Her medical records show that during the period leading up to the tournament, she was given massive doses of androgenic steroids.
The drugs are called androgenic, because they stimulate masculine sexual characteristics.
WERNER FRANKE: Heidi Krieger did really get loads of androgenic hormones, more than Ben Johnson got as a male, so with that loads of androgenic hormones there were no other possibility that in that body, the male development took off.
NARRATOR: Heidi’s body was transformed, though at the beginning, she was slow to notice the differences.
For years, she struggled with her sexuality. Then, in 1997, she underwent a sex change operation, and changed her name to Andreas. She didn’t feel she had much choice…
ANDREAS KRIEGER: Translation: I didn’t find it unlikely or particularly unpleasant because probably I was already caught up in this male/female thing. I chose to have surgery because I couldn’t live in the body of a woman any more.
NARRATOR: Heidi’s training regimen in the mid-80s was so ambitious, she was lifting more than most male athletes.
ANDREAS KRIEGER: Translation: These are my training diaries from 1986. I once worked out that I’d lifted more than 100 tons in two weeks.
NARRATOR: As people noticed the changes in her body, the Dynamo club became her only refuge.
ANDREAS KRIEGER: Translation: I stopped going for walks or to the shops because passers-by in the street would call my nasty names, like faggot, gay pig. They picked on me and that’s when I said to myself, I’ll just stay here in the sports club. I’ll make do with what I’ve got here, because I was so scared of being bullied in the street.
NARRATOR: The strain on Heidi’s body grew. She stopped competing before the 1988 Olympics because of irreversible damage to her hips and thighs. She was only 22.
For the next decade, Heidi battled her body.
Not until she became Andreas did she get more comfortable in her own skin. In 2002, after a two year romance, Andreas married ex-swimmer Ute Krause.
Both continue to have health problems stemming from their steroid use. Ute still wrestles with bulimia and depression.
Katharina Bullin had to stop playing volleyball in 1981 because of her injuries.
Like Andreas, she has struggled to come to terms with her sexual identity.
KATHARINA BULLIN: Translation: I didn’t start to look like a man overnight, it happened gradually. I wasn’t really aware of it myself but it was obvious to everyone else. And whether I wore a dress or a skirt, make up or jewelry, it got worse and worse. They called me a transvestite or gay, and it shocked me.
NARRATOR: Today, Katharina no longer tries to conceal her altered physique. She’s given up on feminine clothes.
KATHARINA BULLIN: Translation: It is very masculine but I’ve had to deal with it but I am still tortured by it because people never see me as Katharina.
NARRATOR: This former Olympic athlete has had 13 operations, and lives in constant pain. Missing a kneecap, she struggles, event to walk.
Her injuries are typical of many doped female athletes, whose bodies cannot support the stresses from the steroid-assisted training.
WERNER FRANKE: Here you to a working load which will not be thinkable without these androgenic drugs. Your body, your joints, your tendons, etc, are not built for such loads especially the female body.
NARRATOR: The East Germans knew the risks, but they continued to dope their athletes until bigger issues overtook them.
TV COMM: “Just before ten o’clock, the moment Berliners have waited 28 years for.”
NARRATOR: In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, bringing an abrupt end to the oppressive socialist state.
As citizens ransacked the secret Stasi buildings, the extent of its control over daily life became clear. And the truth about the Olympic doping scandal slowly began to emerge.
Today, the evidence of GDR doping still lies in the old Stasi headquarters. Over 20 years, an estimated 10,000 athletes were doped—most, without their knowledge.
When Katharina requested her medical files, she discovered the doctors had left many of her injuries untreated…
KATHARINA BULLIN: Translation: Reading these files made my world fall apart. You can’t imagine how deeply it hurts to be abused for years. To realize now that they lied to me and betrayed my trust. I was so, so furious.
NARRATOR: Document after document showed that the Stasi covered up not only the sophisticated doping program, but also its impact on the health of the athletes.
For U.S. swimmer Wendy Boglioli, a free and united Germany meant she could finally dig up the truth about the East German women who beat her in Montreal.
WENDY BOGLIOLI: The freedom to be able to go from one side to the other side on a train and not to have to go through that. I can’t imagine what that was like for people.
NARRATOR: For more than three decades, Wendy has longed for the truth, and perhaps even an apology for her lost medals and glory.
WENDY BOGLIOLI: It was all such a big secret. We didn’t know what this country was about, we didn’t know what the swimmers were about, we didn’t know what the Olympics meant to them because from our perspective it couldn’t possibly have meant to them what it meant to us.
NARRATOR: East German freestyler Petra Thuemer disagrees. She won two golds at the Montreal Games, and even though she knows now that she was doped, she still believes her victories were well-earned.
WENDY BOGLIOLI: Hello.
I just love that.
NARRATOR: Time has aged the two rivals, but the competitiveness is still there…
WENDY BOGLIOLI: Really what I came here, as Americans 30 years ago, we were told that the entire East German team were on steroids. They all were on steroids. That’s what we heard before Montreal.
PETRA THUEMER: Translation: It is difficult to answer this question. I was very young back then when I started swimming and when I joined the national team. I didn’t know anything back then. It wasn’t clear to me then the extent of what they were doing with us.
WENDY BOGLIOLI: Yes.
PETRA THUEMER: Translation: I also have a question. You trained as hard as we did. Did you use anything other than training?
WENDY BOGLIOLI: No, no, definitely not. I know our 23 women on our United States Olympic team in ’76 was not a part of any of that. Had we been, we probably would have won.
PETRA THUEMER: Yes, yes, it’s ok.
WENDY BOGLIOLI: I’m kind of thinking.
PETRA THUEMER: Translation: I won’t allege that anyone took anything. But it’s easy to say today that nothing was taken because there is no proof. I won’t let anyone take this success away from me—this hard won success. I spent many years in performance sports; I loved swimming and had to work hard for it. Here in our GDR there are many things on record. It’s good that it all came out but things were done in many countries, there were deaths where it’s not known what happened.
NARRATOR: Despite all that has been revealed about the clandestine doping program, Petra is reluctant to condemn her coaches and doctors. But she has no long term damage from the drugs.
Others aren’t so lucky. Only now is the full scope of steroid-related health problems finally coming to light.
Sports historian, Giselher Spitzer has just completed a study of more than 50 East German athletes. The results corroborate earlier findings, and catalogue long-term damage ranging from cancer, depression and eating disorders, to liver and heart disease.
DR. GISELHER SPITZER: One of four in this group has very big heart problems. A big part has changes of the liver. More than ten percent of this group have cancer and it was possible to find new side effects which are not known.
NARRATOR: Side-effects like self-mutilation, miscarriages, stillbirths, and birth defects.
Rica Reinisch has a heart condition, and has miscarried twice.
RICA REINISCH: Translation: You’re in pain, abdominal pain and then it starts to come out. You’re helpless, you can’t do anything to change it, it just happens. Something is lost; a life that was supposed to grow inside you is suddenly lost. It’s the worst thing that can happen to a woman.
NARRATOR: But at least Rica herself survived. An autopsy report found after the collapse of East Germany revealed that 16-year-old swimmer Jorg Sievers had been suffering from an enlarged heart and liver problems when he drowned.
The Stasi had deleted his files.
DR. GISELHER SPITZER: Pages from the unofficial supporters are missing. So in that time I personally think they destroyed the data to avoid to have a doping death.
NARRATOR: Other deaths, like that of swimmer Verena Rossberg, are still under investigation. Even before she died of breast cancer in 1996, research had shown that cancer can be triggered by anabolic steroids.
But Verena’s mother is still waiting to find out whether her tumor showed signs of being steroid-induced.
Unfortunately, the results are inconclusive. If there had been any molecular evidence of a connection, it was destroyed by the cancer.
But even without the smoking gun, Professor Franke believes there is a link. He feels that because of the risks, all the doped athletes should have been better monitored.
WERNER FRANKE: She should have been supervised, you know, by the yearly diagnostic checkups, so with careful eyes, so that a potential tumor that grows is discovered much earlier and that of course is life-saving.
MRS. ROSSBERG: Translation: When you find out like this that they gave it to young children, as young as 14 and 15, it’s really criminal. I can’t call it anything else.
NARRATOR: Three years after Verena died, her coach, Uwe Neumann, was one of 70 people convicted for illegal doping.
NARRATOR: But only a few, including Sports Chief Manfred Ewald, and Chief Sports Doctor Manfred Hoeppner, have actually been brought to public trial.
DR. GISELHER SPITZER: Many of these medical doctors or coaches had one simple motive and the motive was to earn money, to be important, to be someone and they had no risk because they were not responsible to the athletes and the Stasi covered them.
NARRATOR: None of those convicted went to prison, and only two have ever spoken publicly about their role in the doping. One of those two is Ulrich Suender.
ULRICH SUENDER: Translation: We feared that we’d be disgraced because what we’d been doing was against doctors’ ethics and against the principles of medicine. Even those responsible, those in the public eye, like Herr Ewald and Herr Hoeppner, got off relatively lightly.
NARRATOR: Despite all the evidence that has come out, many communities still value their medals and cherish their records. Athletes like Rica, who came forward to testify, remain in the minority.
Rica, now married with two children, is not popular at her old club.
RICA REINISCH: Translation: This is where my photo was. Mine and Birgit Waldes have gone probably because I blew the whistle.
NARRATOR: Others athletes are less critical. Javelin thrower Ruth Fuchs has openly admitted to using steroids, but doesn’t denounce the system that made her a star. Today, Fuchs is an MP in the German parliament.
Her long time rival, Tessa Sanderson, believes that no matter how sophisticated drug testing gets, if there is an incentive to win, there will always be cheating. Recent headlines bare her out…
Though there may never be another doping program on par with the East Germans, drugs continue to haunt professional sports.
TESSA SANDERSON: I think people will try and beat the system, always, always, always. As long as commercial involvement is there and that’s big time now for manufacturers and sports manufacturers, they will try.
WENDY BOGLIOLI: Individuals who are taking performance enhancing drugs, where does it end? Because you have to look in the mirror every single day and you have to know that you do this on your own.
NARRATOR: In the 70s and 80s, doping propelled a small nation from obscurity to the global stage.
But for many of the athletes who were sacrificed on the alter of victory, the experience has left nothing but tarnished medals and painful scars.