Doping in East Germany

East Germany conducted a decades-long program of coercive administration and distribution of performance-enhancing drugs, such as testosterone and other anabolic steroids to its elite athletes for the purpose of bolstering the state's image and prestige by winning medals in international championships (such as the Olympics), known officially as State Plan 14.25. The drug regimens, given either with or without the knowledge of the athletes, resulted in victories in international competitions, including the Olympic Games. East Germany had been a pioneering state in doping, so much that it was considered to be the inventor of doping.

Systematic doping of athletes ended with the fall of communism in East Germany in 1989, before German reunification a year later. Many former athletes suffer from health problems related to steroid consumption.


Use of sport in ideology

Socialist East Germany’s use of sport is similar to use of the Italian National Football team in Fascist Italy during the reign of Benito Mussolini,[1] or Nazi Germany’s use of the 1936 Summer Olympics during the reign of Adolf Hitler.

Dictators and authoritarians understood sports as events that were more than just athletics to the public; sport was a “cultural institution in society and it plays an important role in many citizen’s lives”.[2]

Not only was sport used as propaganda to achieve international prominence, it was also used on the home front, as “the political use of sport has ranged from attempting to reduce crime levels, stimulate ‘social capital’ and promote cohesion among disadvantaged groups. Benefits claimed for sport range from fighting obesity – and hence reducing the burden on the National Health Service”.[2]

Following the end of the World War II, sport became increasingly politicized on the world stage. International competitions, like the Olympics, various World Cups, and similar large-scale events began to be recognized as more than purely athletic enterprises, whence actual competition between the West and the East increased in other areas. Inventions in broadcasting, such as television, amplified media attention to the point of putting financial support and perceived national reputations all at stake.

Aspects around sports funding, coupled with the egos of nations that were in ideological conflict with one another, meant, that sporting competitions with their participation would offer a chance to demonstrate which country was superior.

For Eastern Bloc states, the Cold War was a time, when right- and left-wing political powers of the world constantly vied for supremacy politically, economically and militarily; one example of it being the Space Race.

Situation in East Germany

The German Democratic Republic (GDR), colloquially known as East Germany, was ideologically a Marxist–Leninist state with socialist trappings. The GDR closed itself to the sporting world in May 1965.

In GDR, the origin for sports culture was found following World War II, when people were poor, malnourished, and unhealthy; state ideology also regarded its people as having been 'in need of guidance.' With most fitness centers destroyed in the air bombing campaigns, and most equipment taken by the Soviets during their invasion of Germany, the GDR government decided to create the DSA (Deutscher Sportausschuss), a 'German Committee for Sports'.[3]

The left-wing ideology of East Germany then progressed: that every citizen was equal and was expected to give back to the state. Accordingly, sportspeople's achievements were attributed to the state. But career opportunities depended on political loyalty.

The GDR differed from the states of Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany only due to advances in science, and in the incredible use of science and medicine to aid the state's push for dominance. The GDR's desire to ostensibly promote Soviet ideologies, mixed with advancements in medicine, inevitably led the GDR to use their athletes as a propaganda tool.