PtG Article 19.01.2007

Secret Czechoslovakian doping programme will be exposed in 2007

Athletes in former communist Czechoslovakia were subjected to a secret state-controlled doping programme with grave consequences for their health. In contrast to the situation in the former East Germany, however, the Czechoslovakian programme has not been described in any detail yet but a report is expected in 2007.

In December 2006, hundreds of athletes in former East Germany got financial compensation from the German Olympic Sports Association as well as from the pharmaceutical company Jenapharm that produced the steroids given to athletes. Meanwhile in Czechoslovakia police has only just started to investigate that country’s top secret programme of state-controlled doping.

According to the Czech News Agency the investigation was started a year ago by the Office for the Investigation and Documentation of Communist Crimes. Investigation chief Ilja Pravda told Associated Press last month that he plans to release his findings in 2007 in a publication  that ”will attempt to directly point to those responsible for doping, including state and (communist) party officials and doctors ... and the athletes.”

The probe is not expected to lead to criminal charges but is primarily meant to map doping in professional sport under the communist era.

System in place from late 1970’s

Some details about the doping programme were published in the leading daily newspaper Mlada ronta Dnes last August and summarised by the Czech News Agency.

The newspaper had uncovered documents that show that state doping dated back to the period before the Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976 and continued throughout the 1980’s. Doctors, coaches and high sport officials participated in the system which supplied banned anabolic steroids to athletes to improve their performance at international competition.

Selected experts were in charge of preventing doped athletes from testing positive at international sport events, and the Anti-doping Laboraty in Prague carried out thousands of secret urine tests of Czechslovak athletes before they left for competitions abroad.

Athletes do not want to talk

Jaroslav Nekola, chairman of the Czech Anti-Doping Committee, has told Associated Press that 400 top athletes in sports such as track and field, skiing, swimming, canoeing, cycling, wrestling and weightlifting participated in the doping programme. Here they received anabolic steroids of all kinds and those who refused faced the risk of being dropped from the national teams.

Nekola explains that the national Olympic Committee decided in the early 1990’s to pardon those who had been involved in doping  and also offered athletes to undergo a thorough medical check-up. About a third took up the offer but so far nobody has sought compensation for health damages.

Part of the problem is that athletes are reluctant to talk about their doping use because they are ashamed of acknowledging publicly that they were cheating.

”The biggest obstacle for the investigation is that athletes do not want to talk about it. It is too sensitive for them,” investigation chief Ilja Pravda told Associated Press.