The payoff for global prestige can sometimes be a high price to pay. For many of the former East Germany’s sports athletes, it was a lifetime of pain due to drug abuse and doping. Before the recent stories of doping in cycling or the last few editions of the Olympics, there was a systematic abuse of athletes in the 1960s to the 1980s in East Germany. The communist regime came to view sporting glory as a significant marker for the highlighting of their superiority over the rest of the world.
East Germany was born out of the split between the Allies (USA, UK and France among others) who controlled West Germany against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or Soviet Union who controlled the eastern region. Despite being a country of only 17 million, they broke hundreds of world records and won more than 500 medals almost always coming second during the Olympic Games. State run drug administering programs were run in a country where, by law, athletes had to take performance enhancing drugs. For many today, especially those who began doping as teenagers, liver failure, kidney problems, crooked bones and joints, depression, miscarriages and infertility are common issues. Its West German counterpart too has been found to followed a similar program between 1970 and 1990 although not in as minute detail. However, there are still widespread denials of complicity in Germany by politicians, doctors and sports professionals who remain adamant that nothing was amiss. Whether or not they do admit to it in the future remains to be seen.
The German government has only this year confirmed that former victims of drug abuse will now be paid modest compensation. Overall, the evidence serves as a stark reminder of the pain and suffering athletes go through and the pressures they face to perform and be the best in the world. A passing moment of glory for a lifetime of agony may be comforting to some but to many, it’s not worth it and it never will be.