April 8, 2009 / 2:04 PM / 11 years ago

INTERVIEW-Doping-German victims dismiss coaches' apology

BERLIN, April 8 (Reuters) - Athletes who suffered under East Germany’s doping programme have dismissed as “superficial” an apology by five leading coaches for their past involvement.

The coaches, formerly part of the East German athletics system, admitted on Monday that they had been involved in doping in the past and apologised to their victims for any health damage, in what sports officials called a landmark letter.

“This is superficial and it is in no way clearing the GDR’s (East Germany’s) doping past. This is whitewash,” Klaus Zoellig, head of the Doping Victims Aid group (DOH) told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.

The DOH, set up to support mainly East German athletes who suffered physical or mental damage due to the drugs, represents some 600 doping victims.

The spotlight on Germany’s doping past is bound to become stronger this year with Berlin hosting the world athletics championships and marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Long jump coach Rainer Pottel, discus coach Gerhard Boetcher, javelin coach Maria Ritschel, shot put coach Klaus Schneider and heptathlon coach Klaus Baarck signed a German Olympic Sports Federation (DOSB) declaration admitting to past doping offences.

The DOSB said it was the first time coaches still active in the German athletics federation (DLV) had accepted past doping offences, shown remorse and offered their victims an apology.

It said the coaches had not been involved in any doping offence since the reunification of the country in 1990.

NO SATISFACTION

Zoellig, however, said: “This letter is no satisfaction to the victims.

“These coaches had 20 years to come out and help in an essential way to clarify what was being done. But instead they were silent for 20 years until now with this letter. That is not a real apology. It cannot be.”

East Germany had a notorious, state-supported doping programme for athletes which helped them to win hundreds of medals at the summer and winter Olympic Games but many athletes sustained irreparable health damage.

Germany is still investigating the doping past in both east and west, while many former East German athletes have been recognised as doping victims.

An estimated 8,000 to 9,000 athletes were on the doping programme between 1972 and 1989.

In the Olympic Games from 1972 to 1988, despite a boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Games, East Germany won 384 medals. The country was second in the medals table in three of the four Games in which it took part.

“We are not saying these coaches should not get a second chance,” Zoellig added.

“We believe everyone should get a second chance but that should come through an investigation of events and not through such a letter that is only touching the surface and pushing the real issue of their personal involvement in doping under the carpet.” (Writing by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Clare Fallon; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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