East German Doping-WOW!
- 01-26-2004, 12:09 PM
East German Doping-WOW!
East German Steroids' Toll: 'They Killed Heidi'
By JERE LONGMAN
Published: January 26, 2004
AGDEBURG, Germany, Jan. 20 — Andreas Krieger opened a shopping bag in his living room and spilled out his past: track and field uniforms, a scrapbook and athlete credentials from the former East Germany.
The photos on the credentials looked familiar, but the face was fuller and softer, the hair covering the ears and draping down the neck. This was Heidi Krieger, the 1986 European women's shot-put champion, perhaps the most extreme example of the effects of an insidious, state-sponsored system of doping in East Germany.
The taking of pills and injections of anabolic steroids created virile features and heightened confusion about an already uncertain sexual identity, Krieger said, influencing a decision to have a sex-change operation in 1997 and to become known legally as Andreas.
"They killed Heidi," Krieger said.
More than 14 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and more than three years after criminal trials resulted in convictions of East Germany's top sports official and sports doctor, Krieger and a number of other athletes are still trying to resolve legal, medical and psychological issues related to the secretive doping program that was known by the Orwellian euphemism of "supporting means." Many of the athletes were minors at the time and say they were given performance-enhancing drugs without their knowledge.
Karen König, a retired swimmer, filed a civil lawsuit against the German Olympic Committee, contending that it inherited more than $2.5 million in assets from East Germany upon reunification in 1990 and thus bears responsibility to assist the former East German athletes.
She is seeking $12,500 in a test case, and as many as 140 former East German athletes, including Krieger, are deciding whether to file similar complaints. Last month, a state court in Frankfurt ruled that König's case could proceed. Indications are that the case could be settled out of court, according to German news reports.
Jens Steinigen, König's lawyer, said in a telephone interview that he was also exploring the possibility of suing the pharmaceutical company VEB Jenapharm, formerly state-run and now a subsidiary of the Schering AG Group. According to evidence in the criminal trials of the late 1990's, Jenapharm produced the steroid Oral-Turinabol that was given to East German athletes.
"We won't be able to make these wrongs undone, but the athletes can still use the money for medicine or therapy," Steinigen said.
As Krieger sees it, no amount of money could restore his health, which he considers harmed by steroid use and secondary effects. He experiences such intense discomfort in his hips and thighs, from lifting massive amounts of weight while on performance-enhancing drugs, that he can no longer sleep on his side. Only the mildest physical exertion is tolerable. Long unemployed, he now works two days a week as a clerk for a real estate agent.
On Tuesday, the same day that President Bush called for an end to steroid abuse in American sports in his State of the Union address, Krieger again told his own story, feeling compelled to shed more light on one of the darkest chapters in the history of performance-enhancing drugs.
As many as 10,000 East German athletes were involved in a state-sponsored attempt to build a country of 16 million into a sports power rivaling the United States and the Soviet Union, recent trials and documents of the East German secret police have revealed.
An estimated 500 to 2,000 former East German athletes are believed to be experiencing significant health problems associated with steroids, including liver tumors, heart disease, testicular and breast cancer, gynecological problems, infertility, depression and eating disorders. Some female athletes have reported miscarriages and have had children born with deformities like club feet.
In 2002, two years after the criminal trials ended, the German government established a compensation fund of $2.5 million for the doping victims, with a maximum payout of $12,500. Only 311 athletes, however, made claims — Krieger among them — by the deadline of March 31, 2003, according to Birgit Boese, a board member of Doping Victim Aid, an assistance group.
Some athletes were unaware of the fund, while others were embarrassed, afraid of losing their jobs, unable to gain full access to their medical files or unsuccessful in convincing doctors that their ailments were directly related to steroid use, Boese said.
"There was a lot of denial and still is," Boese said of the athletes. "Many have never, or only now, understood that they were abused by people they trusted."
Some of the most outspoken have faced harassment and threats. Ines Geipel, a retired East German sprinter who chronicled the doping system in a book, "Lost Games," said she had been confronted at readings in 2001 by former East German officials. As recently as Jan. 18, she said, an anonymous phone caller told her, "You know there is not much time left for you."
Neither she nor Krieger has been deterred.
"People should know what happened, what side effects can be generated," Krieger said, speaking through an interpreter inside a concrete-block apartment building left from the Communist days in Magdeburg, a 90-minute train ride west of Berlin.
As Andreas, he has a goatee, wide shoulders and a narrow waist, and is handsome in a Three Musketeers kind of way. Told this, his wife, Ute Krause, said, "D'Artagnan," and he gestured as if sword fighting, saying "en garde" to an imaginary foe.
When discussing the effects of doping, Andreas became serious and animated, sometimes emotional, smoking cigarettes and nervously rubbing his palms. When he was Heidi Krieger, scratching of the hands became a compulsive act and sometimes drew blood.
Though Krieger said he was happy, his life remains complicated. At 38, he is married to Krause, 41, a former East German swimmer. They met in Berlin at the criminal trials. Before Ute and Andreas were wed, he explained to her teenage daughter, Katja, that he, too, was once a girl. Katja accepted his explanation and her mother and Andreas married in May 2002.
Theirs began as a desperate kind of love. Ute and Andreas were former elite athletes, damaged by steroids, betrayed by coaches and officials they trusted and eager to testify against them. Both were once given to thoughts of suicide. They leaned on each other for information and support during the trials. Both had come to believe their drug-fueled performances were no longer legitimate.
Andreas's gold medal from the 1986 European championships, now part of a trophy designed as a steroid molecule, is given as an annual award to Germans involved in anti-doping efforts. Ute keeps a framed certificate of her 1978 world rankings in the backstroke in a symbolic location, over the toilet.
He is glad that he became a man, Krieger said, explaining that Heidi felt out of place and longed in some vague way to be a boy. What makes Krieger angry, Krause said, is a belief that the steroids essentially made the decision for Heidi, leaving her unable to sort out her sexual identity on her own.
"They pushed her out of her sex," said Geipel, the former sprinter and writer who is a friend of Krieger's.
A Teenager's Torment
In 1979, at age 14, Heidi Krieger began attending the Sports School for Children and Youth in Berlin. It was affiliated with the powerful sports club Dynamo, which was sponsored by the Stasi, the East German secret police.
At 16, Heidi began to receive round blue pills wrapped in foil. This was the steroid Oral-Turinabol, but coaches typically called them vitamins that would increase strength and help the athletes endure the stress of training. In Heidi's case, the Oral-Turinabol was given in tandem with birth control pills.
Six months later, Heidi's clothes no longer fit and she felt "like the Michelin Man or a stuffed goose," Krieger said. By the time she was 18, she weighed 220 pounds, had a deep voice, increased body and facial hair and appeared mannish. On the streets of Berlin, Krieger said, Heidi was derisively called a homosexual or a pimp. Once on a commuter train, in the presence of her mother, she was called a drag queen. She went home, removed her skirt and never wore one again.
At the airport in Vienna, where Heidi had gone for a track meet, a flight attendant gave her directions to the men's bathroom. Even later, as she considered a sex-change operation, Krieger said, a psychologist asked, "So you want to change from a man to a woman?"
The insults stung, but Heidi kept taking the blue pills. She had wild mood swings, from depression to aggression to euphoria. Once, she swiped at a boxer who had taunted her. When she stopped taking the birth control pills, her breasts began to hurt severely. She felt out of place at the sports school and in her own body, but the shot-put was a way to measure up, to fit in. By 1986, she had become the European champion.
"The only thing I could do was sports," Krieger said. "I got to travel, I received recognition. I got the feeling that I belonged. That's what I wanted, to belong. From my point of view, I deserved it. I had worked hard. To question whether these were hormones I was being given, I didn't ask or suspect."
Clearly, though, the steroids had a profound effect on her performances. And Heidi received drugs in large doses. As a 16-year-old, she put the shot just over 46 feet. Three years later, she pushed beyond 65 feet 6 inches. Trainers and doctors referred to her as Hormone Heidi.
According to medical research records uncovered by Brigitte Berendonk, a onetime West German Olympian, and her husband, Dr. Werner Franke, a molecular biologist from Heidelberg, Heidi Krieger received 2,590 milligrams of Oral-Turinabol in 1986, the year she won the European championship.
"That's about 1,000 milligrams more than Ben Johnson got in 1988," Franke said in a telephone interview, referring to the Canadian sprinter who was stripped of his gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, after testing positive for the steroid stanozolol.
After the Fall
Eventually, Heidi's powerful muscles and strenuous workouts began to overwhelm her joints and skeletal system. Retrieving a training log from June 1988, Krieger displayed a regimen indicating that Heidi lifted more than 100 tons of weights in a two-week period. Such physical strain took a toll on her knees, hips and back, and by 1991, her career ended.
That same year, Berendonk's seminal book about East German doping, "From Research to Cheat," appeared. But even after Heidi's mother showed her the book, which detailed Heidi's steroid dosage, she did not want to believe that her performances had been achieved through doping rather than simply by skill and determination.
"Even then, I was in denial," Krieger said.
Retired, unemployed, the social safety net of her country no longer available to soften her fall after reunification, Heidi began to experience a deepening sense of dislocation, despair and ambiguity about her sexual identity. She never had a relationship with a man. She did have relationships with two women, but did not consider herself a lesbian, Krieger said.
By 1994, Heidi grew so depressed one day that she filled her tub with water and sat inside with a razor blade, intending to slit her wrists, seeing the blood flow in her mind, Krieger said. At that moment, Heidi's dog, a shepherd named Rex, nuzzled her arm, signaling it was time for a walk.
"The dog nudged me with that cold nose and it was like a shock, like I woke up from a dream," Krieger said.
In 1995, Heidi met a transsexual and began considering a sex-change operation, Krieger said. Two years later, she had her breasts removed and underwent a hysterectomy and other surgical procedures to begin the process of becoming a man known as Andreas.
Eventually, Andreas accepted that Heidi's athletic performances had been fraudulent. This left him feeling sad and angry, Krieger said. Heidi had trusted her coaches and trainers as if they were surrogate parents. But the officials gave her drugs that pushed her in a certain direction, Krieger said, denying her the most important decision she could make.
"I didn't have control," Krieger said. "I couldn't find out for myself which sex I wanted to be."
By May 30, 2000, Andreas was ready to confront in a Berlin courtroom the former East Germany's top sports official, Manfred Ewald, and the top sports doctor, Manfred Höppner. As described in the book "Faust's Gold," (St. Martin's Press, 2001) written by an American psychologist, Dr. Steven Ungerleider, Andreas had a dramatic encounter with the presiding judge.
First, Andreas presented a wrinkled photograph of himself as Heidi. Then he said of the East German officials, "They just used me like a machine."
He described hating his body, and spoke of a mind "crazy with panic," filled with thoughts of suicide. He told of the sex-change procedure, and in a moment of brutal poignancy, said of his mother, "She says no matter who I am, boy or girl, she will always love me."
Ewald and Höppner were both convicted of accessory to the intentional bodily harm of athletes and were given probation. Upon testifying, Andreas said he lost his fear of the two men. And he got some confirmation of his beliefs from the verdicts.
"The words used in court were that the giving of relatively high doses of Oral-Turinabol to a girl around puberty has significantly contributed to development into transsexuality," said Franke, the molecular biologist whose research into the East German doping system formed the basis of the criminal prosecutions.
Although the complex decision to have a sex change could not precisely be connected to steroids, the psychologist Ungerleider said, "Emotional fallout from high levels of testosterone can make people unsure who they are."
Facing Life Today
In a twist to his story, Andreas Krieger is again receiving hormones every three weeks, this time as therapeutic injections to maintain his maleness. The hormones are more benign versions of the testosterone derivatives that East German officials fed him. He still feels depression near the end of each hormonal cycle, and he worries that he is at a higher risk of cancer.
Still, Andreas said, "It's better than I had before."
In Krause, his wife, and her daughter, Katja, he has a renewed sense of family and belonging. And Ute understands what Andreas experienced as an athlete in a way that does not need words. As a swimmer, she had her own problems, developing bulimia in an attempt to stem weight gain from steroids. She struggled with bulimia for 20 years, she said, and once tried to kill herself by swallowing sleeping pills and vodka.
"Since we have been together, she has not thrown up," Andreas said.
Ute manages a pair of nursing homes as Andreas struggles to find a job in graphic design in a region with high unemployment. When they watch sports, it is with a certain skepticism about doping. Now, when he sees a woman throw the shot more than 65 feet, Andreas said, "I know this is not only from drinking water."
He is adamant that athletes caught using drugs should be treated as criminals and banned permanently from sports. And he considers it hypocritical for other countries to hire coaches from the former East Germany. Through it all, Andreas keeps Heidi close, memories pressed between the pages of a scrapbook.
"I have to accept that Heidi is part of my history," Andreas said. "The more open I am, the less problems I have. Less than if I try to deny her."
- 01-26-2004, 04:00 PM
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Sad story. What an awful thing to put a young girl through..treated like she was a lab rat.
- 01-26-2004, 04:12 PM
Yeah that's pretty terrible. He should atleast get paid some loot for going through all that
01-26-2004, 04:24 PM
I got it off the NYTimes site. If see the pic of him now, you never, ever think he used to be a female.
01-26-2004, 04:50 PM
I have read about this before. Actually, it is where I first learned about Turinabol before people started making it again in underground labs. It is rather unfortunate.
This is more information that is being used by the media which will ultimately result in PH bans and stricter AAS laws.
01-26-2004, 07:48 PM
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Of course the media will jump all over this, it's sensational. They've got to do their jobs to save us from ourselves!
Add to that Bush mentioning steroids in the State of the Union Address and we have a bleak future.
01-26-2004, 09:24 PM
The potential banning and stricter enforcement of AAS is NOT a party affiliated manuver. The pending bills are heavily supported by both parties.
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