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State Plan 14.25: The Doping Regimen of East Germany

What happens when your country systematically drugs your body every day since the day you started training to ensure you get an easy win? Explores Ananya Das in the context of East Germany’s doping regimen ‘State Plan 14.25'.

When athletes step into the arena they have dreamed and worshipped since a tender age, they expect everything to be perfect to the T. The shot-put should be well greased, the tracks should be well paved and most importantly, the flag of their country should fly high – a country you represent, fight for and want to win for. But what happens when that same country systematically drugs your body every day since the day you started training to ensure you get an easy win? What happens when your body rejects those drugs and ruins the chances of you ever playing the game that shapes your entire life?

This is the story of hundreds of athletes who represented East Germany and the Soviet Union in major sporting events only to find out they had been 'doped' secretly to claim the winning gold, this regimen was called 'State Plan 14.25'. For people who do not know, doping refers to injecting your body with banned performance enhancing drugs to make sure your game is superior to the others. This is for those who lost their careers to the vicious plans of their governments and never got to step onto the dreamy arena ever again. To understand why the government would do something so unthinkable, a history lesson is ought to be taken.
In 1945, Adolf Hitler committed suicide and ended the war that claimed the lives of at least 55 million people. Berlin, the seat of his power now lay in waste, awaiting closure and clarity. As the Germans returned in hopes of reclaiming their power that they once held over everyone's heads, they soon found out the times were dark and the waters, deep. Then came 1949 and from the foundation of the Tokyo Stock Exchange to the signing of the NATO treaty. One of the major events that took place and shook the groundwork of our existence was the formation of East Germany also known as the GDR (German Democratic Republic). It isn't just the current American president who wanted to put up walls; the Berlin Wall was constructed by East Germany to separate the East and the West that sundered millions of families.
The Eastern Bloc claimed that the wall was put up to protect the people from the fascist ideas of the West. It is important to note that it was not just the extremist Germans who wanted GDR but the Soviet Union's vested interests spoke volumes. The one thing Joseph Stalin was good at was to know where to invest his time. It wasn't entirely false when he said he wanted to democratically unify Germany. He wanted it as much as anybody until and unless it did not fall into the Western Bloc. Undoubtedly, the time was complicated and the politics of the world was unravelling at a rate that was almost alarming. Every country wanted its own piece of cake and no one was willing to be what we call today 'compromising'.
Walter Ulbricht, the leader of the Weimar era famously said, "It must look democratic but we have everything in our hands."
Once dubbed as one of the most 'godless' places on earth, East Germany did nothing to change or improve its reputation. They earned this infamous title with the help of their secret service police that was anything but secretive called the Stasi (Staatssicherheit) that did everything in their power to earn the label of the most feared organisation in East Germany and possibly, the world. They were ruthless, unforgiving and were good at what they were told to do, so much so, many anticipated a coup of sorts. From domestic surveillance to foreign espionage to connections with the Red Army Faction, the Stasi went the whole ten yards to help their government to be the most promising world leaders but these were just a few of the crimes they committed to making sure the power was secure.
The history of the tiff between the East and West Germans is long, vast and ends the same way every story does but the aim of this article is to highlight events that changed the lives of certain people for the very worst. The sporting world of East Germany hit rock bottom and was facing an all time low owing to all the war and destruction. Most of the people were injured, malnourished, obese or just too tired to be associated with sports. Most sporting facilities were bombed down and the stadiums were used as bunkers. The Stasi and the overall government thought of 'Sports' as a cultural symbol of strength, something that would create an international prominence for the communist country and give them a reason to count them as one of the greats. The best way for the Stasi to recreate their country as a sporting dynamo was to recruit young children who showed promise at said games and train them in sports like shot-put, javelin, discus throw, long jump, track and field. Their first major breakthrough in sports only commenced from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Heidi Krieger was 11 when the government discovered her. She was then lured away under the false pretence of the safety of Kinder- und Jugendsportschule (sports school for children) of powerful sports club SC Dynamo Berlin, funded by the Stasi where she was trained vigorously day and night in hopes of one day representing her country proudly at The Games. One fine afternoon, her coach gave her a harmless looking blue pill saying it's an important vitamin. Heidi was young and unquestioning and why shouldn't she trust her coach? Those blue pills were, in fact, anabolic drugs and testosterone that enhanced her performance in shot put and discus throw, games she would be famous for one day. Granted, she won the gold for her country in the 1986 Olympics, but this cost her far more than just a few hormones. The systematically administered drugs her body had been injected with, forced her transition from a woman to a man. The level of testosterone in her body was 11 times more than a normal female body. After years of battling depression and suicidal thoughts, she decided to undergo sex change operation and turn into a man. Today, who was once Heidi Krieger is now Andreas Krieger, a postman who works in Magdeburg. He will never throw the discus again owing to the constant pain in his left joints. Looking back, he says, "The one who pays for all is the athlete."
Andreas is not alone in this unimaginable journey of pain and resentment. Marie Katrin Kanitz was victim to the system as well being doped for 8 years as her coach handed her the dreaded pills stating that they would keep her body in check and make her a world class figure skater. The consequences for Marie were severe. She could now, never have children.
"It's not so much my body but my soul. But I'm just one. Most of the women can't have children, the uterus is damaged, there are men with cancer, problems with the heart, and difficulties with the bones in the body. For me, I don't have children and that is a big sadness. This system was very authoritarian. I asked fewer questions because of it. It was never the mentality to ask. I got the vitamins for seven or eight years. You get pills and pills and pills and you have to trust in your coach that he does the right thing. You don't ask why– that was the process." She said in an interview, tears streaming down her eyes.
That dream you see with your eyes shut was forever closed on these athletes. There are not just two, there are hundreds. Hundreds who have not received justice but just a few bills of money that are expected to remove years of mental trauma, physical pain and emotional agony. This was repeated recently during the 2016 Olympics when the entire Russian fleet of players was banned from participating in The Games due to allegations of doping but one Darya Klishina stood out and participated having being cleared by the agencies. She was branded a traitor by her own country and now competes as a neutral in all World Championships and other tournaments. She has no flag, no anthem and no sense of patriotism to show on these games. The ambition of making her country proud remains distant.

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