By JACQUELIN MAGNAY
The former East German 1500 metres world-record holder Jorg Hoffmann has sensationally admitted to taking steroids, prompting a furious Australian head swimming coach Don Talbot to slam him as a "dirty rotten bastard".
Hoffmann triumphed at the world swimming championships in 1991, beating the young Kieren Perkins and Glen Housman, in a world-record time of 14 minutes 50.36 seconds.
But it now appears his performance, which is still ranked the fourth fastest of all time behind Perkins' three world records set in Canberra, Barcelona and Victoria (Canada), had been influenced by his drug-taking years in the former East Germany.
"I was first confronted by the blue pills in 1988," said Hoffmann yesterday on German radio station Sender Freies Berlin. "There was always a political officer standing by.
"If I had been the only one in the team to say `I'm not taking this,' they would have thrown me out."
Hoffmann, 27, said the blue pills contained the banned anabolic substance Oral-Turinabol.
But Talbot said there should be little sympathy for Hoffmann, who is at the end of his swimming career and is probably aware that his name is on the files of Stasi, the former East German secret police.
"As far as I am concerned, Kieren has got another gold medal. Kieren really won that race," Talbot said.
"It riles me that the whole East German regime, they are happily now confessing, but no one in the sport is doing anything about it, no one is stripping their records or their medals.
"They blandly confess after so long, but that medal was robbed from Kieren Perkins and it distorts the whole thing.
"People think, `oh that poor guy, he is confessing,' but they don't give a bugger for the victims. I have seen swimmers retire in absolute frustration because everyone knew the East Germans were cheating and they are still competing.
"It is appalling that these people confess, but there is no comeback in any way whatsoever."
Talbot said he believed there were cover-ups continuing even now at the highest levels of the sport. "I've got no hard evidence but I have been around long enough and I have a feel for it," he said.
"It is a bit of a facade really, a bit of a sham, all the drug tests go to the one person in FINA (world swimming body) and it is all covered up."
Another former East German relay swimmer, Karen Koenig, has also claimed that popping pills was part of everyday life for swimmers in East Germany. "They were presented to us as vitamin pills and I believed it because it sounded so normal," Koenig, now 28, was quoted as saying in Thursday's Berlin daily newspaper Tageszeitung.
"It was a ritual activity like brushing your teeth. Every day I took pills of some sort."
Koenig's comments were published two days after Berlin state prosecutors charged two former East German swimming coaches with having administered drugs to young swimmers under their supervision.
The German Swimming Federation said Dieter Lindemann and Volker Frischke, who both trained top German swimmers until recently, were the first of what investigators believe could be a series of former East German trainers to face charges of doping minors.
Lindemann, who once coached world champion Franziska van Almsick, and Frischke, who coached European 800 metres freestyle champion Kerstin Kielgass, have been removed from the national team's training squad.
The charges follow investigations into 10 trainers and three doctors employed by the former East German swimming club SC Dynamo Berlin.
Kieren Perkins learns that he was beaten to the 1991 world title by a swimmer who admits he took drugs.
Picture: STEVE CHRISTO
13 October 1997
Kieren Perkins didn't need any more bad news yesterday.
But he got it anyway.
His old nemesis, Joerg Hoffmann, revealed on German radio that he had been made to take an anabolic substance, Oral-Turinabol, while on the East German swimming team in 1988.
Just over two years later, in January 1991, Hoffmann defeated Perkins by .22sec for the 1500m freestyle title at the world championships in Perth, in a two-man duel described by Sports Illustrated magazine as "the greatest race of all time".
Although Hoffmann was swimming for the unified German team at those championships and presumably no longer was on anabolic steroids, he stillwould have gained the benefit of his earlier use of the drug.
Hoffmann defended his actions by saying he had no option but to take the drugs he was given.
"There was always a political officer standing by," he said on radio. "If I had been the only one in the team who said, 'I'm not taking this,' they would have thrown me out."
Perkins's coach, John Carew, said he was greatly saddened by the revelation.
"I always thought that was a great performance by Hoffmann in Perth," Carew said. "Now it means nothing."
The year following the showdown, the tall, powerfully built German finished third behind Perkins at the Barcelona Olympics and last year finished seventh in the Atlanta Olympic final.
Asked if that was the effect of the steroid benefit wearing off, Carew replied: "It had to be."
Hoffmann officially was credited in Perth with breaking the legendary world record held by Russian great Vladimir Salnikov.
By MEGAN SAUNDERS
14 October 1997
Dual Olympic gold medallist Kieren Perkins said yesterday hedid not want revenge after former East German rival Joerg Hoffmann's startling admission that he used a performance- enhancing drug.
"I suppose I'd have some right to feel cheated, but the only thing that upsets me is that it tarnishes what was truly a great race. Because it was so long ago now, I really think it's something in the past and should be left alone."
But while the world record holder said he could see no point in his conqueror at the 1991 world championships handing over his medal, he said the East German swimming authorities "have a lot to answer to" and should submit to a full investigation.
Perkins said it would be wrong to criticise an athlete caught in an "unfortunate situation" stemming from a harsh communist regime.
"I think it's wrong for people who have lived their lives in a free country to criticise an athlete who lived under that sort of pressure of Communist rule," he said at the Queensland University pool yesterday.
"Obviously though, the officials and the coaches and the political officers and whoever else is forcing these athletes to do that have a lot to answer for."
Perkins said his subsequent triumphs over Hoffmann at Barcelona and Atlanta had partly alleviated the situation.
Hoffman meanwhile, when asked if he owed Perkins an apology, replied "It was nonsense I robbed him of his victory, it was in fair sport.I'm not sorry and I don't think I should apologise to anybody."
Last Sunday, Hoffmann revealed on German radio that he had taken the anabolic substance Oral-Turinabol while on the East German swimming team in 1988.
On radio he said: "There was always a political officer standing by. If I had been the only one on the team who said 'I'm not taking this,' they would have thrown me out."
Just over two years after the use, at a time when he would still be benefiting from the drug, he beat Perkins at the Perth titles by 0.22sec in a showdown hailed as "the greatest race of all time".
Perkins said a full investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs by East German authorities would provide information on masking agents and routines to assist testing bodies.
"If they have an idea of what was going on, it's no longer such a cat and mouse game," he said.
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Articles from The Sydney Morning Herald