A day after news that an old steroid dating back to the 1980s, stanozolol, had been administered to an Estonian teenage swimmer, Russian swimmer Nikita Maksimov has been banned for two years after testing positive for the anabolic steroid at the core of East Germany’s State Plan 14:25 systematic doping programme of the 1970s and 1980s, Oral-Turinabol. FINA, the international governing body, reports that Maksimov tested positive for the substance in a sample taken during training in March. The Russian federation has suspended the swimmer until April 3, 2015.
FINA reports: On March 3, 2013, a swimmer Nikita Maksimov (RUS) was tested positive to the substance Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone/ Oral-Turinabol (Class S.1.1.a Exogenous Anabolic Androgenic Steroids) following an out-of-competition doping control test conducted in Krugloe (RUS). The Russian Swimming Federation imposed a sanction of 2 years’ ineligibility on the athlete starting on April 4, 2013.
An astonishing development. This is the substance at the heart of compensation claims against Jenapharm – and others – by former GDR athletes who suffered serious health problems and point to the drugs regime they were put on, often without their knowledge, as teenage athletes.
In a statement at the time of the claims, Jenapharm acknowledged that the company was obliged to collaborate in the GDR State Plan 14.25 but said that it was not a driving force behind the national GDR doping programme. The blame rested with politicians, sports doctors and coaches. Compensation was paid by the state to some victims but the case was not proven against Jenapharm.
Oral-Turinabol continues to be widely available in the body building world. Here’s a taste of what is entirely unacceptable in the world of sport, the view of one of the many sites selling the illegal substance: “Oral Turinabol is considered the most studied anabolic steroid drug, because it was tested on almost 10 000 German athletes while it had appeared on the market. Unfortunately, the drug was taken out of production and from the market quite a long time, but now is being revived to life.”
Or perhaps death and misery if you include the experience of some of those 10,000, the incidence of women giving birth to deformed children part of the picture.
Heart of darkness
Among those whose expertise supported the athletes’ case for compensation was Dr Rainer Hartwich, director of clinical research at VEB Jenapharm in communist times but no longer with the company. In an interview with a local radio station in Germany, Hartwich said at the time of the claims: “The plan at Jenapharm was not to develop the drug (Oral-Turinabol) into a medication for normal use. The interest in it would have been much bigger and we would have had to have published the data and clinical research for the central advisory board of the GDR . . . that was not desired in our aim to keep it a secret.”
The Stasi – secret police – listed the doping programme under the codename “Komplex 08″. The files show that Hartwich tested and oversaw the development of the anabolic steroids Oral Turinabol and “STS 646″ in a clinic at Erfurt. He is quoted in Stasi files as saying that “the new drugs will be of immense value to our sport”. However, Hartwich warned the Stasi in 1988 that “illegal use of steroids” had “reached alarming levels”.
Two of the central characters in the doping trials of the late 1990s in Germany were Dr Lothar Kipke and Manfred Ewald, head of East German sport and prime architect of the doping regime. Though the latter received what many saw as a lenient two-year suspended sentence and fine at his trial in 1998, Ewald’s testimony prompted judges to rule that administering androgenic hormones to those who did not need them for medical reasons constituted “elevated criminality”. Kipke was also sentenced for crimes against minors.
A former member of FINA’s medical commission, Kipke’s name is still listed among those honoured by the international federation with a “silver pin” in recognition of services to the sport.
Swimming has many examples of former athletes, including Olympic and world champions and record holders who suffered severe health problems in their teens, 20s and later in life as a direct consequence, according to medical experts, of the substances they were given in their youth. Those included steroid compounds never clinically trialled before being given to lesser athletes in the GDR, young people who served as guinea pigs for athletes selected for international competition.
The words spoken (at the time of seeking compensation for the harm done) by one female athlete from track and field who famously turned into a man, Heidi (laster Andreas) Kruger, are as haunting as they come: “No amount of money could ever restore my health. The pills and injections of anabolic steroids created virile features and heightened confusion about an already uncertain sexual identity that I had. They were instrumental in making me undergo a full sex-change operation in 1997.”
“I can no longer sleep on my side as I experience such intense discomfort in my hips and thighs from lifting huge weights while on performance-enhancing drugs. Only the mildest physical exertion is tolerable.”
“They destroyed the lives of a whole generation. We were guinea pigs force fed substances that were supposed to make the country seem great even though it wasn’t. They were as bad as the Nazis.”
Who are the folk in shadows?
And someone, somewhere in Russia has been providing the same to a young athlete in 2013. We await news from Russia not only of the name of the doped athlete and victim but the names of those responsible for doping a young athlete. There have been inquiries of late on Armstrong and others. Where is the inquiry into a side of swimming that continues to protect the adult pushers and administrators of doping in a sport stacked with minors?
Russia’s doping count troubling
That the Russian federation reported the case of Maksimov, saves Russia from international suspension in swimming, the latest case the fifth in swimming this year. In March, Rusada, the Russian anti-doping agency, spent a week saving the Russian swim federation’s bacon: three women swimmers were suspended, while a fourth received a warning.
Under FINA rule DC12.1, four positives from one nation within a 12 month period results in the FINA member federation being suspended in its entirety for 24 months. However, the rule is waived provided that national federations or agencies report their cases to FINA.
All four women involved tested positive for the same stimulant, through the degree of penalty varies in in each case. They were caught at nationals in Volgograd, the home city of Vice-President of the Russian swim fed Victor Avdienko.
Ksenia Moskvina, 23-year-old European s/c 100m backstroke record holder, was removed for six years for a second doping offence after testing positive for a stimulant at Russian nationals last November – on the back of a first offence of ‘no show’ on three occasions.
In a separate case, Rusada reported that 19-year-old Yekaterina Andreyeva has been banned for 18 months for testing positive on the same occasion in November after winning the 100m medley at nationals. Andreyeva was a silver medallist at the first youth Olympic Games in 2010.
Natalia Lovtsova, a 24-year-old relay swimmer for Russia at London 2012, joined the hall of shame after being suspended for two and a half years. No details as yet, of coaches, doctors and/or others who were party to the cheating alleged by Rusada.
“The Russian Swimming Federation has banned Lovtsova for a violation of the anti-doping code for two and a half years from November 30, 2012,” the agency stated on its website, without specifying the specific nature of the offence.
In a fourth case, Dariya Ustinova, just 14 and a talented backstroke swimmer, was issued with a warning by Rusada. It is believed that her age is the reason for the warning, the focus now on those responsible for providing a young junior athlete banned substances. She will race at European Junior Championships in Poznan this week.
It is understand that at least two of the swimmers involved attended a training camp in Volgograd just before the national championships at which they tested positive.