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BMJ. Jun 29, 2002; 324(7353): 1544.
PMCID: PMC1123500

Doped East German athletes to receive compensation

Athletes from former East Germany who were given performance enhancing drugs for many years and who consequently experienced longstanding health problems will receive payments of several thousand euros, the German federal parliament decided on 13 June.

A special law has been passed which sets up a compensation fund of about €2m (£1.3m; $1.9m). The fund is meant to be supplemented by the sports industry and by national sports associations, but neither of these groups has been keen to join the initiative. It is estimated that between 500 and 1000 men and women will apply for compensation by the end of the year and will receive about €3000 each. Currently, the association representing athletes who have had health problems as a result of doping has about 150 members.

Soon after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, it became apparent that many East German athletes had had to pay a high price for the overwhelming success of the nation in many disciplines. Continuous doping from a young age and for a very long time, mainly with anabolic drugs, ruined their health. Doping was often done without the athlete's consent or knowledge. East German trainers and doctors merely followed the socialist party's instructions.

The list of health problems is long: acne, hirsutism, deep voice, muscle tension, gynaecomasty, breast cancer, bone deformation, vascular disease, and teratogenic malformations. In some cases female athletes changed their sex as a result of the continuous intake of male hormones.

The association representing such athletes, as well as single athletes, is not satisfied with the new law, which will come into force in 2003.

Figure
Former East German athletes Ute Krause (left) and Birgit Boese enter a Berlin courthouse for the trial of a former East German sports doctor accused of harming 142 sportswomen

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