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German Drug Trials

Dynamo Swim Club Trial Ends


Karin Helmstaedt

BERLIN - Shortly before the end of the historic Dynamo Doping trial, Erich Honecker's successor, Egon Krenz, appeared at Berlin's Moabit courthouse to gloat at the ineffectiveness of the ever-lengthening proceedings.

"It amuses me to see how one argument after another is refuted," the former Communist Party leader said smugly in late November. "It will not be proved that there was across-the-board doping in the GDR." Many former Party officials share his view that the trial was merely about political revenge, "because East Germany was more successful in sport than West Germany."

But while Krenz and his cronies conveniently overlook the key element of the abuse of underage female athletes, the court did not. After nearly nine months of proceedings in which East Germany's organized drug system was officially laid bare, the final verdict was announced on December 7.

Bernd Pansold, a former chief doctor of the Dynamo club and the last remaining defendant, was convicted of nine counts of assisting grievous bodily harm and fined 14,400 German marks (US $8,600). The judge said the court was convinced of Pansold's role in directing the distribution of performance-enhancing drugs to Dynamo athletes through the doctors under him.

Pansold, who never opened his mouth during the 41 days leading up to the verdict, was holding out for an acquittal. The case against him was shaky as he remained strangely untouched by little other than the reams of his own reports made as Stasi informer "IM Juergen Wendt." Having occupied a position of higher responsibility, he had little or no contact with the athletes. Most witnesses were therefore unable to identify him.

From its opening in March, the landmark trial drew the attention of world media, and evolved unlike any other, marked by a curious discord in which victims, for the most part, were visibly reluctant to cooperate with authorities seeking to bring perpetrators to justice.

For months the original six accused from Berlin's former Stasi-run SC Dynamo club maintained a stony silence, forcing the court to resort to witness testimonies and copious material from Stasi files as evidence.

Of the nineteen women called to testify, only three felt they had been wronged. Others were indifferent or remembered nothing. Some even defiantly defended the coaches who fed them male hormones in the guise of vitamin pills.

Oral-Turinabol, an East German manufactured anabolic steroid, was used to give the extra kick to an already highly scientific training regime.

Administered to young athletes of both sexes, it had a particularly marked effect on girls, allowing them a significant improvement in athletic performance, but also causing bouts of acne, growth of facial hair, deepened voices, muscle cramps, menstrual irregularities, and in some cases, liver damage.

The first of the accused to raise the white flag was Dr. Dieter Binus. Directly responsible for the Dynamo swimmers from 1969 to 1986, Binus was also the GDR women's national team doctor in the late 1970s.

He came forward with a confession in early July, claiming to have merely been "following the orders of his superiors" when distributing Oral-Turinabol tablets to coaches. He was charged with nine counts of grievous bodily harm and fined 9,000 German marks (US $6,400).

Coach Rolf Glaeser broke his silence in August, making formal apologies to his swimmers, and claiming that he never intended to hurt them. He was likewise convicted on nine counts and fined 7,200 marks (US $4,300).

The former GDR national women's coach was employed at the time as Austria's national team coach. After the guilty verdict, he lost his job. Since then he has suffered from heart trouble.

Spiralled into Farce But the drama of reckoning was short lived. With the sketchiness of witness testimonies, the three remaining Dynamo coaches, Dieter Krause, Dieter Lindemann, and Volker Frischke, got off with increasingly harmless penalties of 3,000, 4,000, and 5,000 marks respectively (US $1,800, $2,400, and $3,000).

The trial spiralled into farce as the frustrated prosecutor persisted in calling a series of useless witnesses to shed light on Pansold's involvement. Those under investigation themselves, like the former head of the GDR's Sports Medicine Services Dr. Manfred Hoeppner, exercised their right to silence. The likes of Krenz and the "Honecker of sport," former East German Sport Federation president Manfred Ewald, watched with glee as the momentum of the so-called "pilot" trial slowed to an uncomfortable crawl. While much of the Stasi file material was validated as evidence, they and their supporters maintain that it is scandalous to rely on such subjective documents.

Witnesses in the final weeks brought nothing in the way of useful evidence. There was Mrs. Nagora, the woman responsible for correct protocol in the Doping Control of Dynamo athletes. She insisted she merely delivered materials, including bottles for urine collection, and never ever looked inside any of the unmarked packages she was entrusted with. "I was responsible for Doping Control, not doping," she told the judge. A former Dynamo pharmacist, obviously terrified and overwhelmed by the courtroom, broke down in tears at the simplest of questions.

Then there were those who simply "couldn't remember" anything. Heike Shiemann, former track athlete herself and Olympic gold medallist in the 4x100 relay in 1972, was later a medical technical assistant for Dynamo.

She denied the truth of her statement made to police in 1996 in which she claimed to have received testosterone injections from Pansold. In court she insisted that police investigators had falsely embellished her statement. The matter was promptly investigated and Shiemann has been charged with lying under oath, an offence carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison-ironically more than any of the accused have ever had to imagine.

Although he spoke out repeatedly between 1991 and 1997 about the drug use in the GDR, former Dynamo swimmer Raik Hanneman also had a hard time jogging his memory in court. Now a journalist for a popular Berlin newspaper, he clearly wished to avoid playing a key role in a story he would now rather avoid.

The most dramatic moment in the trial occurred when Volker Frischke, the coach who weeks before had walked out of court with a penalty of 5,000 marks, was called as a witness. According to German law, Frischke had no recourse to the right to silence because his own trial was over, and was therefore required to testify. To the question about the little blue pills however, he initially refused to answer, thereby arousing the fury of the already harried judge, who threatened him with two months "thinking time" in prison and slapped him with a disciplinary fine of 1,000 marks in the hopes of stimulationg his memory. Frischke's defiant yet unsuccessful strategy had a reason: after losing his job with the German Swimming Federation he hoped to win his job back in a labour court. Any open admission of having handled the blue pills, which he had avoided in his own proceedings, jeopardized his already slim chances. Needless to say, the scare tactics worked, although Frischke's testimony shed no further light on Pansold.

Two days after the final verdict, Pansold's lawyer announced that he would appeal the decision in Germany's highest court of appeal. The 56-year-old Pansold has been employed at the Austrian Olympic Training centre in Obertauern, where he looks after, among others, Olympic ski champion Hermann Maier.

Of primary significance in the two doping trials to date is that there were no acquittals; altogether four doctors and seven coaches have had to account for their role in damaging the health of young swimmers. That the guilty verdicts have implications for future trials of those higher up the chain of responsibility-namely the medical and political masterminds behind the doping system-is clear. But the question remains as to whether the several hundred cases still under investigation will ever come to fruition. A statute of limitations on the offences of October 2, 2000, makes assembling the evidence for further prosecutions look like a tall order. Nevertheless, Prosecutor Hillebrand predicted the first functionaries would be charged in the spring of 1999.

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