Former Athletes Of East Germany Open Up About Unknown PEDs


It has been a long time since East Germany ruled the Olympic games with performance-enhancing drugs.

The issue in swimming has been brought to the forefront as Shirley Babashoff and the 1976 women’s swim team in the documentary The Last Gold.” The documentary tells the story of the swimmers affected by the East German dominance and urges the IOC to issue medals to the clean winners in each event.

But the memories remain for many involved, especially those who were given PEDs without their own knowledge. The victims were both the athletes of East Germany and the athletes that were defeated by East Germans.

“Often unbeknownst to them, East German athletes were frequently given anabolic steroids, sex and growth hormones and extreme doses of pain medication,” Oliver Frisch of Zeit Online wrote. “For many of those affected, severe health consequences have been the result, some of which are only now making themselves felt. They include heart disease, kidney complications, skin troubles and problems with bones and sex organs. Some suffer from depression and eating disorders or are traumatized. But the issue is hardly ever spoken about: The victims are reticent and those responsible remain silent.”

Several former athletes spoke to Zeit Online, a German news outlet, about their lingering feelings, issues and life-altering affects that continue today.

“I enjoy life, but I know that I won’t grow to be very old. I have an incurable illness,” discus thrower Katja Hofmann, 44, told Zeit. “If I were to list all my health problems using just keywords, it would take several minutes. … Unfortunately, my body doesn’t tolerate pain medication, so I have to make due without. Pain is my constant companion …

“Today, few recognize my name because I never took part in the Olympics and I stopped throwing a long time ago. But my sporting career has followed me, because as I know now, I was given performance-enhancing drugs. Without my knowledge. Again and again. For years. … We were guinea pigs.”

Hofmann goes on to detail taking packets of powder from age 13 after being told they were vitamins.

Victims were not only the athletes and competitors, but children of the athletes.

Mercedes, Ostrowski, 17, was the daughter of canoe racer Petra Ostrowski, and has been affected by her mothers unknown doping. Her older sister died at age 10 and was unhealthy for her entire life.

There are many more athletes affected and their lives changed forever. It is another reminder of one of the ugliest times in sports history.


Swimming World has asked FINA to recognize all the victims from this black era in sport.

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Matt Ponds
6 years ago

The IOC have taken medals from just about everyone except the 76 East German Team.

Johnny Karnofsky
6 years ago

And the IOC/FINA refuses to take any action against the athletes…. they took Lance Armstrong’s titles, rewrote the record books and redistributed medals as if his performances never happened… why don’t they do the same here? It is my understanding that the surviving members of those teams representing East Germany want nothing more to do with those false records at this point.

Vic Stawik
6 years ago

Ugh very frustrating.

Melina Gold
6 years ago

Been there and seen it, and knew something was so weird. Faced the East German swimmers at my first European championship in 1982. I thought I was in the wrong heat when I looked at my left and right starting blocks and though I was about to race men, not girls from my age group. It was a sad swim meet I will never forget.

Melina Gold
6 years ago
Reply to  Melina Gold

Lol…thanks for reading my response, Ivan Ivanov! And yup, I did swim for the Bulgarian team. Wish I can get access to records somewhere. It was my first loss ever, after being untouchable in 100 and 200 breastsroke in Bulgaria for several years through out the age groups. Tanya Bogomilova was my mentor and inspiration, and my times were 2-4 seconds behind her. Darn, this post brought up so many memories…smh.

Michael Maloney
Michael Maloney
6 years ago

yes and then go get the medals from the “Germans” who were Nazi’s in WW2….or the Japanese who raped and wiped out entire cities with attrocities…there are more things to be worried about AFTER the fact..when the TIME window has closed…..I’m sure there are scum out there who got away with worst by letting the time go by…sorry just mho

Georgina Parkes
Georgina Parkes
6 years ago

I won a silver medal in WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS 1982 losing to East German Cornelia Sirch who smashed the 200m backstroke world record and became the first women to break 2min 10sec. She won the race by almost 5 seconds!!! I won the silver but would dearly love FINA to recognise the injustice of awarding Corneila the GOLD MEDAL (and the other East German women) and correct the record books to reflect the ‘non drug’ results.

Virginia Smith
Virginia Smith
6 years ago

How about Nancy Garapick? She won bronze for Canada in the 100 and 200 Backstroke in Montreal, losing to not one but two East German women who confirmed that they had been given drugs.

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