GDR Doping Petition Calls On IOC Leaders To Embrace Reconciliation Plan & Help Exorcise Ghost Of Dark Chapter In Olympic History

2022-06-15 Reading Time: 6 minutes

Editorial – Today, State of Swimming, with the cooperation and agreement of and on behalf of some of the athletes calling yet again on Olympic sports leaders to exorcise the ghost of the GDR doping past, has launched a petition asking the International Olympic Committee to help create the environment for a truth, reconciliation and recognition process to heal the harm done in swimming long ago and still being nursed by many across the world to this day.

The statistics of that era in swimming alone are nothing short of staggering.

The petition, under a headline “Olympic Leaders Must Back A Truth, Reconciliation & Recognition Process On the East German Doping Era” is launched just days out from a long-weekend of FINA Bureau and Congress sessions during which appointments and further details of the new Aquatics Integrity Unit are expected to be announced.

Some readers have been asked to may payments at the point of signing campaigns posted on petition websites. If that is your experience and it prevents you from signing the East German Doping Petition, you can also sign and leave comments in this version of the petition here at SOS. It’s free of charge and will be passed on to the women swimmers campaigning for justice.

In the spirit of the reform process underway in aquatics, the FINA leadership has already made clear its support for allowing athletes and others affected by the GDR Doping era to submit their case and evidence in support of a truth, reconciliation and recognition process aimed at healing the harm wrought in the swimming community by the mass deception of the East German doping program.

Those who wish to sign the petition can do so at Change.Org after reading the request in full or this summary:

Dear Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, and fellow members of the IOC,

We the undersigned call on you to support and engage with International Federations in a process of truth, reconciliation and recognition for all those whose health (physical and mental), welfare, personal development and lives in general have been and continue to be affected in negative ways by the GDR doping era.

Over the past three decades, the world has heard much about the harm done to the victims of GDR-doping abuse. The evidence of mass systematic doping through a program called State Research Plan 14:25, was compiled and published throughout the 1990s and then used to convict coaches, doctors, politicians and others charged with harm to minors, during the German Doping Trials of 1998-2001.

The cheating was kept a state secret by scientists and others working at the IOC-accredited laboratory in Kreischa, Saxony. Rather that analyse anti-doping samples to catch cheating, the laboratory was used to make sure that no East Germany athlete left the country if there was a risk of them testing positive in International competition abroad.

The victims included prepubescent girls and young teenagers who rose to the heights of sports such as swimming fuelled on a diet of anabolic steroids. Many paid a high price through ill-health suffered as a consequence of being fed substances administered purely to enhance sporting performance and in the absence of any medical need to take those substances.

Those athletes were deprived of knowing their own true status at the peak of world sport; left unable to say how far their talent and hard work unaided by the doping would have taken them.

Millions of euros have so far been paid out in compensation by the German Government working with the country’s Doping Victims Help organisation.

The other side of the coin has been far less visible. There has been neither compensation nor even official acknowledgement of the damage done to generations of girls and women robbed by the GDR doping system of their rightful honours and the status and rewards they might have expected throughout life had their true achievements in sport been recognised.

While the IOC has shown empathy with GDR athletes by allowing results to stand even though it has been proven that the results were achieved through doping, the organisation and its affiliate international federations have shown no such empathy for the athletes denied their rightful rewards and status in life.

Those women, together with parents and coaches, were all too often written up as failures after they finished outside the medals behind three East Germans, for example. In fact, many should have been recognised as supreme athletes of their day. They have been the hidden victims of the darkest chapter in Olympic sport in the 20th century, a doping era in which systematic deception took place at every passing competition in plain sight.

Among major consequences of that lack of any official acknowledgement and reconciliation and recognition is this: the IOC was long seen as an organisation that, in the face of overwhelming evidence of the depth of the GDR’s systematic cheating revealed as early as 1991, would rather turn a blind eye than take action against the perpetrators, recognise the harm done to all athletes involved, as well as their extended families and those, like coaches, who worked with them.

Many of the athletes who competed in the GDR-doping era suffer from psychological trauma to this day. They feel as though their true identities were stolen or, at the very least, never recognised, their achievements never rewarded.

At a time of reform, FINA, the international aquatics federation, has indicated its support for looking at the issues with a view to reconciliation and healing so that all can finally move on. This week, as the World Aquatics Championships get underway in Budapest, FINA is set to announce appointments of staff and voluntary officers for the new Aquatics Integrity Unit.

The FINA leadership has already made clear its support for allowing athletes and others affected by the GDR Doping era to submit their case and evidence in support of a truth, reconciliation and recognition process aimed at healing the harm wrought in the swimming community by the mass deception of the East German doping program.

Among those backing this petition are Olympic champions, podium placers, finalists, their coaches, families, media and more, people who will provide a case file for submission to the Aquatics Integrity Unit when it opens its doors for business, in keeping with the IOC’s “Vision” agendas at the heart of Herr Bach’s presidency.

The request we make to the IOC is intended to achieve something akin to the South African truth and reconciliation process. While apartheid and mass systematic doping are not comparable, sport has a great many valuable lessons to learn from the work of Rev. Desmond Tutu and others who worked on South African reconciliation after decades of discrimination and hatred had been a part of official policy in their country.

In that spirit, we the undersigned would like you, the IOC leadership, to agree to and support the following Ten-Point process in support of athlete welfare, justice and a commitment to promoting clean sport and Fair Play:

  1. That the IOC drop any opposition to measures aimed at addressing the injustices of the GDR doping era on grounds that the “statute of limitations” stands in the way: such statutes are irrelevant in a reconciliation process 
  2. That the IOC acknowledge that proof of the GDR’s systematic doping program was available to the IOC in the 1990s in published evidence that would lead to convictions criminal and otherwise, of coaches, doctors, politicians and sports bureaucrats during the German Doping Trials of 1998-2000
  3. That the IOC acknowledge that the East German doping program was rolled out to many thousands of athletes, girls and women particularly affected because of the illegal administration of testosterone and related anabolic agents with the intent to androgenise female athletes and provide them with physical advantages associated with maleness in the context of competitive sport
  4. That the IOC acknowledge that the anti-doping laboratory at Kreischa in East Germany was used to cover-up large numbers of positive tests by East Germans, including Olympic champions in swimming alone, in the 1970s and 1980s
  5. That the IOC support International Federations (IFs) and their Independent Integrity Units in their efforts to make recommendations on truth, reconciliation and recognition measures related to the GDR doping era.
  6. That the IOC clarify its views and reasoning on whether or not medals should be removed from GDR athletes under any circumstances. 
  7. That the IOC support a plan, should Integrity Units accept that the case and evidence put to them demands reconciliation and recognition, to allow FINA (and other IFs) to draw up lists of shadow-podium awards that would recognise a revised finishing position in Olympic finals.
  8. That the IOC support any recommendation to have IFs and federations affiliated to them and/or National Olympic Committees stage ceremonies at which shadow prizes of recognition would be officially awarded to those denied their rightful place in Olympic history and the history of other events, in line with the spirit of the IOC’s popular “Take The Podium” program
  9. That the IOC strip all honours from GDR officials and instruct International federations to do likewise
  10. That the IOC and IFs find a mechanism in their history files and historic results that links to an explanation of the nature of State Research Plan 14:25, the scope for which is now far greater in the digital age, on the basis that a result sheet should not hide know truth about performances enhanced by doping. 

Links:

GDR 30 Years On: The Day In 1989 The Berlin Wall Came Tumbling Down On Doping Regime

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