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German Trials

The Conspiracy Of Lies Has Been Cracked Beyond A Doubt


Karin Helmstaedt

After 25 days of gruelling court procedures in the so-called "pilot" doping trial of coaches and doctors from the former Dynamo Swim Club in Berlin, the opening of the second such trial on August 18 was remarkable in many respects.

For one, all five accused, two doctors and three swimming coaches from the former TSC Club (Berlin), arrived prepared to make confessions. For another, all five spoke their piece in one day. Also noteworthy was the fact that, for the first time, the words "regret" and "apology" were uttered in the courtroom.

But most important was that a mere day later, the court made history by reaching the first-ever verdict, thereby setting an important precedent in the painful hashing out of East Germany's state-organized doping history. Charged with grievous bodily harm for having administered anabolic steroids to underage female swimmers between 1979 and 1989, Dr. Ulrich Suender, Dr. Dorit Roesler, and former coach Peter Mattonet were found guilty of 11, 9, and 7 counts respectively. Given that they were aware of the possible consequences of the anabolic steroid Oral-Turinabol, they were found to have abused the trust of the athletes and their parents. The court found that, alone, the administration of non-medically required drugs to healthy athletes for the purpose of performance enhancement constitutes grievous bodily harm, even according to the former GDR medical code. In other words, no actual irreversible physical damage needs to be found in the victims to establish guilt; artifically stimulated muscles or deepened voices and facial hair developed during their swimming careers more than suffice.

The three convicted received fines of between 7,000 DM and 27,000 DM. Two other coaches, Bernd Christochowitz and Klaus Klemenz, were given pecuniary penalties of 7,500 DM and 3,000 DM respectively. The court took note of the fact that, with the exception of Mattonet, all the accused made apologies; it is also significant that although they pleaded lenience on the basis that they were part of a centrally organized system, that fact served as no justification. The judge said they were part of a "System of state-ordered crime," but nevertheless could have chosen to act differently. Dr. Roesler, 50, showed obvious relief upon leaving the courtroom. "I'm very happy that this problem of ours has finally been dealt with," she told a flock of reporters. "Now we can get on with our lives and not be confronted with doping every day. I accept this verdict beause I think it is morally justified, and I want to thank the court because I think the procedure was very fair."

Dr. Roesler, who was responsible for direct care of the swimmers of TSC Berlin, told the court she received Oral-Turinabol pills from her superior, Dr. Suender, and then gave them to the coaches, who distributed them to the swimmers. She gave no thought to side effects she may have observed in the young women because the federation doctor, Dr. Lothar Kipke, told her the side effects were not serious and the swimmers would return to normal. "I functioned as a typical product of the GDR," she said, "which I deeply regret."

Dr. Roesler and Dr. Suender described the administration of "OT" as a state secret. "It was never discussed between colleagues. The subject was absolutley taboo," said Dr. Suender.

With the arrival at such a rapid verdict, the TSC Trial overtakes the Dynamo Trial as the real "pilot" procedure in Germany. With the testimonies of all five defendants validated by the court, the implications for the ever-running Dynamo trial and for future trials of those higher up the ladder-namely the medical and political masterminds behind the doping system-are clear. That the GDR doped its way to international sporting glory can no longer be disputed.

Rolf Glaeser, one of those accused in the Dynamo trial, attended both days of the TSC proceedings, head bowed, and sinking lower and lower in his seat. But even if what he heard shook his belief in an eventual aquittal, it did little to shake his resolve. He appeared at his own trial in between without uttering a word. The conspiracy of lies has been cracked beyond a doubt. But the Dynamo wall of silence remains solid.

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