Doping and sports - 1977


The year 1977 officially produced forty positive doping tests. Eight young weightlifters were suspended for the use of anabolics and as many athletes after the European youth athletics championships in Donezk, Russia.

Doping in the GDR

In 1977, Renate Neufeld (1960-), one of the greatest East German sprint talents, fled to the West, together with Bulgarian TV reporter Pentscho Spassov, with whom she later married. The following year she revealed that her trainers had obliged her to take doping in the preparation for the Olympics.

"At the age of 17 I was admitted to the East Berlin Sports Institute. My specialty was 80m hurdles. We had to swear that we would never talk about our training methods with anyone, not even with our parents. The training sessions were very difficult and we were constantly monitored. Before we went to the dormitory we had to sign a register, again and again we had to report where we were going and at what time we would return. One day my trainer Günter Clam advised me to take pills that would improve my performance. He told me that it was vitamins, but soon I got cramped and a heavy voice and at times I could not even speak anymore. Then I got a mustache and my periods stopped. At that time I decided not to swallow the pills anymore. One morning the secret police took me to question me about my refusal. Then I decided to flee to the West with my fiancée."

On her flight to the West she smuggled the gray tablets and green powders that her trainer had delivered to her. The West German doping specialist Manfred Donike (1933-1995) analyzed the substance and identified anabolic steroids. To protect her remaining family, Neufeld kept her mouth shut for a year, but when her father lost his job and her sister was thrown out of the handball club, she decided to come out with the whole story.

Despite more than 10,000 athletes from the East German regime receiving systematic doping for 20 years, only occasionally one got caught. For example, at the 1977 Europa Cup in Helsinki, shot putter Ilona Slupianek (1956-) had to hand in the gold medal after a positive test on Nandrolone. Moreover, she was suspended for a year. Later it became clear that between 1981 and 1984 she again had taken high doses of Oral-Turinabol. In 1980 she won the shot put at the Olympics in Moscow and she broke the world record twice, the last time with a throw of 22m45.

After that positive doping test in Helsinki, a furious Manfred Hoppner (1934-), chief sports physician of the GDR, required that from then on every athlete selected for a foreign competition had to undergo a secret drug test. Every year more than twelve thousand urine samples were taken from the whole of East Germany to the laboratory in Kreischa. Every athlete who tested positive had to stay home.

The fifteen athletes who fled the country between 1976 and 1979 confirmed East German doping use. One of them was ski jumper Hans Georg Aschenbach (1951-), who was also a medical doctor:

"Because of their intensive training, long-distance skiers got injections in their knees from the age of fourteen, ... For every Olympic champion there were at least 350 invalids .... Among the gymnasts there were girls who had to wear a corset from the age of eighteen, because their backs and ligaments were badly worn ... Some young people were so exhausted by the intensive training that they also completely broke down mentally, which is even more painful than a deformed spine."

During a doping test at the end of October 1977, East German swimmer Andrea Pollack (1961) tested positive. After the fall of the Wall, she admitted that her successes were achieved through performance-enhancing drugs, including steroids.

Birgit Boese (1962-) was barely ten years old when her 'preparation' started to become a successful shot putter. She practiced daily for ten hours and that six days a week. On her eleventh birthday, she had to swallow blue pills every other day.

"My voice went deeper, when I answered the phone at home, my family thought I was my brother. I suddenly grew body hair, I grew enormously and I cultivated muscles masses."

When she was told to keep silent about the events, she thought that this was because of the food. After all, bananas were regularly on the menu, which were a rare treat elsewhere in the country. But she also had to take small blue 'vitamin pills' every day that later appeared to be massive doses of anabolic steroids. If the children dared to ask why they gained weight so quickly, they received punishment training to silence them. At the age of fifteen, injuries compelled Boese to stop with shot put. Because of her daily use of Oral-Turinabol her health had gone down the drain and due to the chronic pain she became completely dependent on morphine. Moreover, she had to inject insulin because she had become a diabetic. In her Berlin apartment she stumbled around with a stick. Her liver and kidneys no longer functioned properly, and she also got asthma. At the age of 24 she had the sexual organs of an 11-year-old girl.

"Some athletes feel they have to blame themselves because they did not notice, you felt dirty when you found out and the more international success you had, the more you felt like a criminal."


In April 1977 a report was published in the German magazine 'Der Spiegel' in which experts estimated that until then about a thousand cyclists had died from an overdose of stimulants. Research into the side effects of anabolics also grew, American Professor Madison noted an increase in liver tumors as a result of anabolic use.

In May 1977 the German newspaper 'Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung' published that the highest court of the Belgian cyclists' federation confirmed the punishments of its riders Eddy Merckx (1945-), Freddy Maertens (1952-), Michel Pollentier (1951-), Willy Teirlinck (1948-), Karl Rottiers (1953-) and Walter Planckaert (1948-) because of doping abuse.

Belgian Professor Michel Debackere (1930-2013) perfected a test for the detection of Pemoline, an amphetamine-like drug, and thus caught three of the biggest names in Belgium: Eddy Merckx (1945-), Freddy Maertens (1952-) and Michel Pollentier (1951-).

After he was caught doping, German cyclist Bruno Zollfrank (1955-) was suspended for three months.

Thanks to cortisone, Frenchman Bernard Thévenet (1948-) won the Tour de France in 1977, something he later admitted.

In the same Tour de France, Dutchman Joop Zoetemelk (1946-) tested positive for Pemoline, although the product was not on the list of prohibited substances at the time.

Spanish rider Luis Ocaña (1945-1994) was suspended conditionally for a month, had to pay a fine of one thousand French francs and was given a time penalty of ten minutes after Pemoline was found during a check in the Tour de France.

"I swallowed what everyone swallowed, everything else is hypocrisy," he said in an interview to the French newspaper L'Equipe in 1984. "Since medical checks were carried out, the situation did not improve: it was ten times, no a thousand times safer to take amphetamines, which were certainly less dangerous, and the consequences of the abuse of corticosteroids are serious, very serious."

He committed suicide after he got hepatitis C by a blood transfusion after a car accident.


During the last weekend of March 1977, the first doping controls were held in the highest French football league, which provoked huge protest. National coach and former football player Michel Hidalgo (1933-) even fulminated that footballers did not use dope.

Ice hockey

Canadian Don Murdoch (1956-) played professional ice hockey with the New York Rangers when he was caught by customs with 4.5 grams of cocaine in his socks at the Toronto airport in 1977. After the NHL suspended him, he confessed his drug and drinking problem. Later, his affair with Margaret Trudeau (1948), the wife of the Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (1919-2000) leaked.


Australian rugby player Graham Olling (1948) confessed his use of anabolic steroids, although they were not banned in the rugby competition at that time and they were even administered under medical supervision.

Track and Field

During the European Championships in Helsinki, sixteen athletes were caught using banned drugs, only five were penalized.

In the Soviet Union, the journal 'Athletics' published a report by Russian thrower coaches Otto Grigalka (1925-1993) (photo), a former discus thrower and shot putter, and Kirn Buchanzew on the GDR research into 'The use of protein and hormone preparations. to increase the muscle mass of the athletes'.

West German champion 100m Manfred Ommer (1950-) confessed that he had used anabolics, just as 90% of the German national athletics team did. On a monthly basis he used a package of one hundred tablets, which cost him 87 Deutsche Mark. But from 1975 onwards he did not succeed in achieving successes anymore, his speed was reduced due to the muscle increase.

Discus thrower Knut Hjeltnes (1952-) received the dubious honor of being the first Norwegian athlete to be caught doping. He tested positive on anabolic steroids. Later he became head coach of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.

West German Annegret Kroninger (1952-) confessed in 1977 she won the Olympic silver medal on the 4 x 100m in Montréal that the year before thanks to anabolica. Federal coach Wolfgang Thiele (1935-2011) deliverd her the stuff and she also suspected her teammates of use, but they all denied it.

In 1977 West German discus thrower Liesel Westermann (1944-) revealed her sporting experiences in her book 'Es kann nicht im lor Lorbeer sein', (It can not always be laurel wreaths) In which she pilloried the prevailing doping culture with clear words:

"There will never be an end to the disagreement between those who claimed that the GDR girls were so strong only because they had heavy voices (anabolics) and those who would have us believe that the enormous power of the GDR women only would be the result of a system of performance building that was deliberately and methodically scientifically proven, who is right? I can not decide it, a case will be thoughtful by the careful observer: the men of the GDR and other Eastern bloc countries are none more superior than their competitors like the socialist women are, they also grew up under the same system as the women ... Everywhere the opinions are unanimous: the joker in the international competitive sport is no longer talent, is not called hard working anymore is not called endurance, but is now called anabolica, whether in the form of pills or injections, chemistry dominates the scene."

Westermann also quoted the words of federal trainer Karl-Heinz Leverköhne:

"Who does not take the stuff does not even make the B-team, so do not be surprised if you do not get to the Olympic standard if you do not take pills".

Leverköhne was trainer of Karl-Heinz Riehm (1951-), multiple German champion hammer throw and silver medal at the 1984 Olympics, who in 1977 confessed that he had taken anabolics.


Positive test on steroids by the Greek weightlifter Christos Iakovou (1948-), who later became a professional trainer in the United States.