He was a member of the Hitlerjugend before taking the GDR sport to the top with a doctor of doping

He was a member of the Hitlerjugend before taking the GDR sport to the top with a doctor of doping
Image source: telex.hu

There was no big announcement in 1961, sixty years ago, when Manfred Ewald officially took full control of sports affairs in the German Democratic Republic, but this appointment had a huge impact on universal sport. In a short time, the GDR became a sports superpower, with the notorious beauty flaw that centrally controlled doping played a major role in the state sports strategy. In any case, the GDR achieved its goal, becoming an equal competitor between the Soviet Union and the United States at the Olympics and other major sports competitions.

“We need to live on in a body that will never be ours. The fear, however, remains with us that the little blue pills that were given to us at a young age behave like a time bomb and explode once. ”

These bitter words were uttered in 2000: one of the victims of systemic GDR doping, Ute Krause, said as a witness when Manfred Ewald had to answer for his actions in court. The floating husband of former depressed Olympic frame member Andreas Krieger Heidi was born a woman and became a European champion weightlifter in 1986, but received plenty of pills and hormone cocktails and later continued his life as a man. His is the most extreme example of East German doping terror, and Ewald’s story shows how we got this far.


Manfred Ewald was born in 1926 in Podjuchy, which is now a Polish territory, a suburb of Szczecin. He entered the Hitlerjugend, became a member of the Nazi party at a young age, fought in 1944, and was captured by the Red Army. After his liberation and the war, he became a member of the German Communist Party, came close to the sport in 1948 as a simple functionary, and then kept moving forward because he proved to be a good organizer. In 1952, in a paper called Rundschau am Montag, he summarized what it takes to excel in sports:

  • creating a mass base for sport;
  • broadening and consolidating the mass base;
  • raising the performance of athletes to a higher standard.

He achieved fast results in the first two, already talking about a breakthrough in 1955, because the athletes of the GDR reached more peaks than their competitors in the FRG: the ratio was exactly 10-6. Ewald was then chairman of the sports committee attached to the Council of Ministers.


1955 is also an important year because the International Olympic Committee then, six years after its formation, added the GDR to its ranks. Ewald saw school and children’s sports as the basis of everything, so he concentrated his efforts on that area. In addition to athletics, he named swimming, rowing, wrestling, gymnastics and weightlifting as sports where you can really stand out. Complemented by cycling and boxing, these sports became the foundations of East German elite sports.

In addition to coaches, he received significant help in raising the standard from a pharmaceutical company called Jenapharm, which developed the miracle doping agent, Oral Turinabolt, in the 1960s.

The countries of the socialist camp provided a lot of help to each other in organizing sports life, coaching methodology, but they also competed seriously with each other. Therefore, Jenapharm did not boast much of its secret miracle drug in the lab, even though 1.8 million of it was made annually during the peak period: the pink pill contained 1 milligram of active ingredient, the blue five times that. Ewald’s number one helper, Manfred Höppner, was tasked with distributing medicines, and important issues were decided in his darkened little Berlin office. Ewald and Höppner later sat together on the dock, the latter also apologizing to the victims in the courtroom.

They didn’t know what they were getting, they thought it was a vitamin

Turinabol is an anabolic steroid. It helps protein synthesis, increases muscle mass and endurance, and as a result, fatigue avoids a person. Athletes didn’t know what they were getting, they thought it was a simple vitamin. Sometimes they were smuggled into tea, other times the coach himself supervised whether the selected competitors collected it.

Ewald and his team began selecting prospective top athletes as early as infancy based on their parents ’physique, and later they continued to monitor how the kids were dripping. He has created a worldwide network of enviable, high-quality sports schools. The number of certified athletes has steadily increased, with nearly two and a half million of the 17 million countries playing sports competitively. It was a privilege to be included in the athlete’s elite program: parents were given 60 marks of meal allowances, and athletes could see the world, and even if they were constantly monitored by the Secret Service, they could get a freedom that the majority couldn’t even dream of.

East West

In 1964, the two German teams were still running together at the Olympics in Tokyo, but this could not last long due to political tensions. At the sports level, the two countries became separate in 1968, the GDR won 9 gold medals as an introduction, and the West Germans stopped at 5.

The lofty great goal came in 1972, when the great adversary in the FRG, Munich, tried to prove the superiority of the GDR. The GDR beat the FRG 20-13 in the number of golds, and the ratio in the number of medals was 66-40. So that at that time not even steroids flew the GDR, but mainly amphetamines and other stimulants.

The table below summarizes what East German athletes came up with. In parentheses we indicate the number of golds won in the women’s numbers, which clearly shows how women’s sports were involved and used – although in many competitions at that time only men could compete.

GDR presence Gold Silver Bronze Placement is

on a medal table

1968, Mexico 9 (1) 9 7 5.
1972, Munich 20 (9) 23 23 3.
1976, Montreal 40 (25) 25 25 2.
1980, Moscow 47 (24) 37 42 2.
1984, Sarajevo (winter) 9 (6) 9 6 1.
1988, Seoul 37 (20) 35 30 2.

While soaring in the GDR, the FRG closed with 10 gold medals in 1976 and 11 in 1988, and did not participate in the Moscow Olympics in 1980 by joining the boycott. The GDR could have been at the summit in Los Angeles in 1984, but the boycott intervened. At the Sarajevo Winter Olympics, they won the competition of nations with 9 golds, behind them the Soviets took six first places, the USA four. This aggregate balance sheet is:

the GDR won 153 gold medals at the Summer Olympics and 39 at the Winter Olympics.

Incidentally, five of the 115 members of the 1980 team who won 47 gold medals have since died: a pedestrian, a cyclist, two rowers and a swimmer. There is no information about what the majority lives. A study was published in Die Zeit that found that doping shortened the lives of those affected by an average of 10-12 years.


I was in sports

This is the title of Ewald’s autobiographical book, which illustrates well: without him, no decisions could be made in the sports life of the GDR. It reflects his prestige that when they wanted to flourish football, he made direct contact with the captain of the Golden Team, the World Cup silver medalist Gusztáv Sebes, who would have taken on the task, but in the end the Hungarian authorities did not let him.

One of the important tenets of his book is that communists do not kill people.

He also voiced this in court, highlighting his successes, although in the meantime he has plagued a large number of athletes with one of the world’s greatest human experiments. The death toll is around 200, and many racers have had children with physical disabilities – if at all, if they could get pregnant at all, because in many cases, changed hormone homeostasis has made this impossible.

Today it is comically active, but Ewald also gave an interview to the Hungarian Képes Sport in 1976. “A coach needs to understand not only the profession but also pedagogy, a little bit of medicine and psychology. There can only be one effect on a competitor, the effect of a coach. The preparatory work was coordinated, built on each other and led centrally, ”he said.

Unterstützende Mittel über only

The East German doping program operated under the 14.25 state plan (Staatsplanthema), the word doping was never uttered, not described, and steroids were run as aids (Unterstützende Mittel). At the time, control was still in its infancy, and doping doctors in the GDR took full advantage of this.

The famous anecdote dates back to 1976, when the unusually deep voice of the swimmers was spoken by the press, and the answer was, they came to swim, not to sing. Whoever could not comment on the contestants also paid attention to the looks: those with too much body hair were hidden from the public. Incidentally, the first doping allegation against the GDR was made by János Sátori, who raised Olympic champions as the swimming coach of the West German national team, and he led the joint team at the 1964 Olympics.

The world, meanwhile, closed its eyes.

In 1985, Ewald received the highest award from the International Olympic Committee. He always tried to portray himself in good color, regularly giving dinner to those who didn’t win medals at an Olympics, and indicated that he wouldn’t forget about the hinterland either.

In 1988, when international scrutiny had tightened a lot, Oral Turinabol’s time to evacuate from the organization was measured very carefully, and no GDR rider fell at the Seoul Olympics, destroying the country’s prestige. Meanwhile, doping Bulgarian and Hungarian weightlifters were screened out – the Hungarians failed with a drug called stanozolol – as was Canadian sprinter superstar Ben Johnson. Who, by the way, was far from receiving the same amount of steroids as most East Germans.

Returned peak

Ewald was sued by former athletes for intentional bodily harm and aiding and abetting, and in 2000 was sentenced to 22 months in prison by a court. The physician of the swimming team, Lothar Kipke, whose small metal suitcase (which contained the hormone injections) was already bad for the competitors at the sight, escaped with a fine. Ewald died in 2002, at the age of 76, of pneumonia.

“The victims are not in the pantheon”

– this was stated by Ines Geipel, who is also one of the victims, and also took revenge on him. He fell in love with a Mexican walker, so he wanted to dissect, but his intentions turned out. He was admitted to the hospital for appendectomy in 1985, and when he woke up he noticed that his entire abdominal wall had been cut. Much later, it became clear to him from the Stasi files that the intent was clear, the butcher’s work was done on instruction, and as a top athlete, he no longer had to be reckoned with from there.

Geipel was a member of the 4 × 100 running relay in Jena, which reached the German club record in 1984, but after the surgery he no longer had a chance to be a member of the national team. They got rid of it, no longer posing a risk to the others, who could continue to hunt for the peaks. He voluntarily asked for his name to be removed from the top holders because he did not achieve victory clearly – his companions resented it anyway. The GDR relay world record remained in place until 2012, with the U.S. team passing it on to the past at the London Olympics. Between 1968 and 1985, the GDR improved its world record twelve times in this race.

Geipel, who dissociated through Hungary in the summer of 1989 and is now a leading fighter for former victims as a university professor, plays an important role in setting up a € 14 million legal aid fund for those who have demonstrably suffered from state doping. Complaints could be filed until December 31, 2019, meaning that although the GDR has not existed for more than 30 years, Ewald’s actions haunt athletes and families for a long time to come.

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