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The German Trials

Doctor Breaks "Wall of Silence"


Karin Helmstaedt

The so-called "pilot" doping trial in Berlin took its first dramatic turn on July 1 when the judge announced that defendant Dr. Dieter Binus, one of six (four swimming coaches and two doctors) former East Germans charged with grievous bodily harm for having given anabolic steroids to underage swimmers, would break the silence and testify. Binus, responsible for the swimmers of the Stasi-run SC Dynamo Berlin from 1969 to 1986, was also the GDR women's national team doctor from 1976 to 1980. According to his lawyers, the decision to testify was made with the principal aim of saving Binus time and money, not to mention his livelihood. A deal of sorts was struck with the judge that in return for telling all, Binus would receive a maximum penalty of 90 days cost payment, a limit that will not endanger his right to practise medicine. The announcement came as a surprise to the other defendants. Binus' charismatic defence team, Walter Venedey and Suzanne Cossack, said, "We've heard everything we need to hear, and we're not of the opinion that going further will bring anything new."

They said that the upcoming testimony of the appointed expert, a gynaecologist who has been examining all the women in order to determine if damage has indeed occurred, was now of prime importance, as they are not convinced that any physical damage can be proven to be a direct result of anabolic steroids. With this in mind, they intend to seek an acquittal for Binus, but maintain that if he is found guilty, they will take the case directly to the Supreme Court in Karlsruhe. The following week a horde of media eager to hear the confession crowded the hall outside Room 700 of the Moabit District court. Dr. Binus's testimony was, however, disappointing, and hopes for an early verdict were dashed.

German relay team wins 4x200 free last January in Perth ... perhaps the last triumph of the remnants of GDR team where Dagmar Hase and Kerstin Kielgass had their first tainted success and were still part of the now reunited team.
Click image for larger photo. Photo © Marco Chiesa

Reading from a seven-page statement, Binus claimed to have merely been "following the orders of his superiors" when distributing Oral-Turinabol tablets to coaches, who then passed them on to the athletes. He distributed only the required "low" dosages determined by the Federation doctor, Dr. Lothar Kipke, and the chief doctor, Dr. Bernd Pandsold, but had no decision-making powers of his own. Despite testimonies and Stasi file documents showing the contrary, Binus claimed to have distributed only tablets, never the famous testosterone injections. "The delivery of the drugs was difficult to control," he said. "It was up to the coaches to give them out. It is possible that higher doses were given out on training camps by other doctors…but I never allowed for more than one tablet daily." As for side effects of the drugs, he claimed, "To my knowledge the dosages were low enough such that any side effects could be avoided." He claimed to have noticed "no changes in the swimmers under my care." The accessory prosecution counsel, Michael Lehner and Christian Paschen, who represent three of the victims (also witnesses in this trial), were dissatisfied with what they heard, saying, "That was hardly a confession. He has essentially pushed the blame onto his superiors (fellow accused Dr. Pansold) and the coaches under him." The other defendants, they added, would have to seriously think about whether or not they should change their strategies.

And, they guaranteed, there would be no wrapping up of the Binus case before the summer break. They are bringing in more damning evidence to strengthen the victims' case, including numerous documents from the famous doping laboratory in Kreischa (near Dresden): the documented results of an internal doping control of Christiane Knacke and Petra Thuemer prior to the 1978 world championships in West Berlin showed that they were positive for Depot-Turinabol, a derivative of Oral-Turinabol that can only be administered by injection. Both women were kept home from the championships, and Knacke-Sommer has testified that shortly before learning she could not go, Dr. Binus gave her an injection in the behind. Binus was also the only doctor along on the pre-competition training camp in Mexico that same year, and there are documents showing that Depot-Turinabol was administered there too.

So, on Day 22 of proceedings—and the final day before a summer break—the court went no further than separating Binus' hearing from that of the other five accused. Any further testimony of his is now important as it can be used as evidence in other parallel and subsequent trials. And on a soap-operatic note, the court also heard a different kind of witness. Ralf Driesener, the ex-husband of former world record-holder Knacke-Sommer, came to testify against his former wife. With the intent of undermining her testimony (given in May) that she unwittingly received drugs from her coach, Rolf Glaser, in the late 1970s, Driesener claimed that on several occasions during their marriage Knacke had told him that she had managed to get drugs for herself. Many in the courtroom were perplexed. Driesener's statements, read from a typed sheet of paper, were equally shaky; he not only had to check the date of his marriage, he was also off by a year when asked the age of the child he and Knacke produced. Of the 19 witnesses scheduled to testify, the court has heard 16. The court will reconvene on August 12.

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