Doping and sports - 1991


After the American company Amgen a few years before, the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche also launched its EPO. A few months later, scientists discovered that the product increased sport performance by 10 to 20%.

An Australian report published that 47,000 athletes were checked for doping in 1988, of which 1,120 or 2.45% responded positively. The previous year, 71,000 inspections were held, with 930 athletes or 1.31% tested positive.

German weekly newspaper 'Der Spiegel' reported the first deaths among cyclists from the years 1987 and 1988. In the article 'Schlamm in den Adern' (Mud in the veins) the example was cited by Bert Oosterbosch (1957-1989), Johannes Draaijer (1963-1990), Jef Lahaye (1932-1990), Dirk de Cauwer (1967-1990) and Gert Reynaert (1969-1990) who all died suddenly the years before.

American sports physician Randy Eichner, head of the hematology department at the University of Oklahoma, stated :

"One day these people laid down and died, it's that simple, the doctors said they died a natural death ... If that was the case, we had to deal with a rare epidemic in the history of sports medicine."

A few years later twenty cyclists and seven Swedish orientation runners were mentioned whose cause of death was linked to the use of EPO.

Doping in the GDR

Twenty former East German coaches confessed that they had given their swimmers anabolics.

Canadian Charlie Francis (1948-2010), trainer of sprinter Ben Johnson (1961-), published the book 'Speed Trap', in which he cited numerous examples of his experiences with the anabolic use from the GDR.

He described for example Renate Stecher (1950-), during the 1972 Olympics in Munich, winner of the gold medal at 100 and 200m, as follows:

"Never before in my life did I see such a woman, she seemed bigger and more muscular than Valerie Borzov, where I saw evidence of the effect of anabolics."

He also did not hide his admiration for the training methods of DDR trainer Horst-Dieter Hille (1933-2002) and so he came via via in possession of the doping formula that the GDR used for its sprinters.

His confidant also put him in touch with Wolfgang Meier (1942-), husband and trainer of Marita Koch (1957-), the Olympic champion of the 400m:

"Meier confirmed to me that the then DDR standard Steroid treatment protocol consisted of 20 to 40mg per day, with an increase of 5mg every year for each athlete."

From then on the performance curves of the Canadian sprinters that Francis had under his wing also increased.

Francis was, in his own words, most affected by the anabolica thighs of the colossal GDR women:

"Marita Koch was gigantic, her thighs seemed wider than longer, just like a cat, and Marlies Göhr was also impressive."

He wrote about the pitchers from the GDR:

"One evening I saw two GDR throwers on their way to the cafeteria, dressed fashionably with matching handbags and walking on incredibly delicate stiletto heels. But between the dress and the shoes one could see why they had come to Los Angeles for. Calfs like tree trunks, Achilles tendons equal bridge cables, and suddenly a children's memory came in: the dancing hippos from the cartoon 'Fantasia'."

In 1958 Brigitte Berendonk (1942-) became GDR champion in the quad camp, an event unknown to us. That same year her parents fled to Western Germany, where Brigitte joined TV Schwetzingen and one year later became youth champion pentathlon. After successfully completing her sports studies and studies English Language and Literature, she was called in 1967 for the West German athletics team. In 1968 she finished eighth in discus throwing at the Games of Mexico, in 1972 eleventh in the Munich Games. In 1971 she was crowned West German champion in this event and six times she took silver. In 1973 she won the German title in shot-put.

Brigitte Berendonk married Werner Franke (1940-), Professor Cellular and Molecular Biology at the German Cancer Institute of Heidelberg University. Franke, recognized as one of the leading experts in the field of doping, sharply criticized the sports reports in which doping use was obscured. Together with his wife he fought that ailment for years. In 1991, after the fall of the wall they published the book 'Doping-Dokumente. Von der Forschung zum Betrug' (Doping documents, from the investigation into deception), in which they explained the years of systematic doping in the GDR. The book was based on the Stasi files and DDR archives that they could view. Other sources were DDR notes about 'support tools and their consequences', which were kept in Bad Saarow Medical Military Academy. At first they were refused entry to these documents, but thanks to the permission of the Ministry of National Defense they were allowed to proceed. During their research they reconstructed the doping practices that the East German State imposed on its athletes. On December 19, 2001, Berendonk received the 'Heidi Krieger Medaille', a prize awarded by the Death Victim Support. In 2004 Berendonk and Franke received the German cross of merit, for 'their struggle against degrading and criminal doping methods'.

American Football

Just before his death, Lyle Alzado (1949-1992) accused the NFL officials of knowing that their players used extensive anabolics, but that they preferred to ignore this. He also admitted that he had used drugs during his twenty-year career and that the coaches knew about it, but simply looked the other way when the subject came up.


American basketball player Roy Tarpley (1964-2015) was kicked out of the NBA in 1991 by his team Dallas Mavericks because he had been on cocaine and alcohol. He then went to Greece for two seasons, and after being reinstated by the NBA in 1995, he returned to the United States. A return of short duration, because of alcohol abuse he was again thrown out.


After the Stuttgart World Cup, Australian trackers Carey Hall (1963-) and Stephen Pate (1964-) had to hand in their golden and bronze medal after a positive doping test for anabolic steroids and were suspended for six months.

Stephen Pate was in his time known as 'madman on the bike'. He was always dressed in bright clothes, had a flawless haircut, drank alcohol and took drugs. Because of his unconventional character, he was extremely popular. However, his doping problems caused the Australian Committee never to select him for Olympics. He took this hard and after he became Australian champion in 2000 and was yet again not selected, he stopped playing sports. After this he was accused several times for drunkenness and for violence against his wife, so he regularly ended up in jail.


Unlike individual sports such as cycling, weightlifting and athletics, football was not widely associated with performance-enhancing substances. Like most high-profile team sports, recreational drugs were mostly used in football; the cocaine use of Diego Maradona (1960-) is the best-known example of this.

Track and Field

Ukrainian shot-putter Volodymyr Kyselov (1957-), who won gold for Russia at the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, was in 1991 hospitalized several times on intensive care with manifestations of an unidentifiable serious illness. Finally, he admitted that these were the consequences of the use of growth hormones that he had used during his sports career.

In October 1991 West German shot-putter Petra Leidinger (1966-) (photo) admitted in the ARD television show 'Brennpunkt' that she had been doped for years. In 1983 she became German youth champion shot put for the first time. Soon her trainers Franz-Josef Simon (photo) and Christian Gehrmann (1938-) came up with anabolics, so that her performance improved dramatically. Gehrmann, who lived on Lanzarote, put the medication together and sent it to Simon by mail. The manager had to pay the methandienon himself. It was known until 1982 as Dianabol but forbidden in West Germany because of the many side-effects. Because of unpleasant side-effects, Leidinger, who had already started pharmaceutical studies, decided to stop with the intakes. When she finally came up with her story after five years of silence, the facts passed the statute of limitation and the Public Prosecution Service could not prosecute Gehrmann and Simon.

Russian high jumper Tamara Bykowa (1958-), who broke the world record three times, was suspended for three months after she was caught using Ephedrine during the 1990 European Championships.

Cuban discus thrower and shot-putter Luis Delís (1957-) was suspended for two years after banned products were found in his urine in 1990.

Romanian javelin thrower Felicia Tilea-Moldovan (1967-), Slovenian sprinter Borut Bilac (1965-) and Yugoslavian high jumper Biljana Petrovic-Bojovic (1961-) were suspended for two years for a positive doping test after the European Championships in Split .

Russian shot-putter Vyacheslav Lykho (1967-) won the bronze medal at the 1990 European Championships in Split, but had to surrender his prize when it turned out that he had been using N-Methylamphetamine. He also received a three-month suspension.

Norwegian Georg Andersen (1963-) won the silver medal in shot-put at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo, but was suspended for two years after having been an anabolic steroids.

Ukrainian shot-putter Roman Wirastjuk (1968-) was forced to watch from the sidelines for two years after he was caught using anabolics.

During the Unversiade in Sheffield in the UK, Chinese shot-putter Sui Xinmei (1965-) tested positive for anabolic steroids, resulting in a two year ban. At the World Indoor Championships at the beginning of that year, she had won the gold medal.