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The Winfried Leopold Saga


Karin Helmstaedt

There was further scandal for the German Team upon arrival in Perth, and no doubt German Team Chef Winfried Leopold was wishing he had held his tongue. The German team held a press conference on Jan.1 for the Australian media in which Leopold, a former East German, reiterated his admission of having been involved in that country's systematic doping system.

The admissions were old news, but duly reported by the local papers. On Jan.3 the President of the German Swimming Federation (DSV), Rdiger Tretow, was contacted by FINA, who claimed to have learned about Leopold's doping history for the first time in the Australian press. FINA president Mustapha Larfaoui put the matter before the FINA Bureau, who summoned Leopold for a 30 minute hearing. A few hours afterward Leopold was informed that FINA was withdrawing his accreditation for the championships on the basis of his involvement with doping before 1989.

The German team reacted with an appeal to the Bureau decision, and the swimmers issued a statement showing their support of their team leader. Having been open about his knowledge of the doping system since 1991, Leopold was suspended internally in Germany for two years until 1993. He has remained open and frank regarding his past and said that with this decision he felt he was being punished for his honesty.

German officials agreed that it was like a second punishment. They were also incredulous that with all the ink the press have given these issues, FINA had never heard of them before. With Austrian national coach Rolf Glser (who was officially indicted in October for having doped minors during his years as a coach in East Berlin) able to walk the deck in Perth unhindered, the Germans questioned FINA's motives in the decision against Leopold. Furthermore, FINA insisted that an appeal would be futile because the same panel that made the original decision would review it.

This response prompted the DSV to take legal action on the basis that the FINA decision was not only unfair but outside of their right. With the help of the German Consulate in Perth, they hired a lawyer and took the matter straight to the Western Australian Supreme Court. As Dirk Feinauer of Preuss Feinauer and Associates explained at a press conference on Jan.7, their aim was to seek a court injunction restraining FINA from preventing Leopold from fully exercising his function with the German team.

Proceedings against FINA were immediately undertaken, but FINA failed to show up to the preliminary hearing. The matter was therefore adjourned until 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 8.

The DSV expressed its deep disappointment with the way FINA had dealt with the matter, as the issue had been in the public domaine since 1991. In addition to Leopold himself, they felt the German team was suffering as a result of the decision, and this at a very crucial time.

On Jan. 8 the decision was made: the injunction was successful and Leopold had his accreditation returned. FINA, whose hasty decision based on the newspapers got them more negative press than they had bargained for, subsequently announced that the issue would be reviewed by their Doping Panel. No further information was released during the championships.

** In the buzz over Leopold there was talk that FINA may take action with regard to former world champion Jrg Hoffmann, who admitted on German television in October that he had also been exposed to steroids briefly in 1988 in East Germany. FINA's Honorary Secretary Gunnar Werner once again demonstrated that FINA was ill acquainted with its own rules when he said that.
The following is an interesting clause from the FINA handbook:
DC 1.3 An admission may be made either orally in a verifiable manner or in writing. For the purposes of FINA rules, a statement is not to be regarded as an admission where it was made more than twenty-one years after the fact to which it relates.

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