East German doping victims to get compensation

Former athletes who were victims of East Germany's systematic doping program will get a one-time payment as compensation for health problems and give up any other legal action.

Former athletes who were victims of East Germany's systematic doping program will get a one-time payment as compensation for health problems and give up any other legal action.

According to an agreement signed Wednesday in Berlin, the 167 recognized victims will each receive $12,210 US by the end of February.

The agreement ends years of legal wrangling between the victims and German sports officials.

The German Olympic Sports Union and the federal government will share the $2.03-million cost of the settlement, signed by the victims and their lawyers, and DOSB, the umbrella organization of German sports.

"We take the moral responsibility and we want to make sure that something like that cannot happen again," DOSB president Thomas Bach said after the signing of the agreement.

The federal government will finance two-thirds of the settlement, with the money coming from unused funds that had been set aside for cultural activities during this year's soccer World Cup.

Doping victims said they would lend their voice to the battle against doping.

Their lawyer, Michael Lehner, said the payments could only partly compensate for the wrong they suffered.

"For the victims, the most important thing was to be recognized as such," he said.

Government-rundoping

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dissolution of East Germany, it became clear that much of the Communist country's sporting achievements were fuelled by performance-enhancing drugs under a government-run program.

Many athletes later said they had been unwitting victims of the program, given drugs without their knowledge while still teenagers. Many said they had suffered permanent health problems because of steroid use.

The victims had gone to court to demand compensation from German sports organizations, arguing they had inherited the property and funds of former East German sports institutions. The sports organizations in the west had argued against being held responsible for the doping system of former East Germany.

Lehner also asked the pharmaceuticals company Jenapharm, which produced many of the drugs, to contribute to the payments.

The government had set up a fund for doping victims four years ago. A total of 194 former athletes each received $13,700 under that compensation program.

"Some athletes from the former East Germany have suffered considerable health damage because of the state-run forced doping in the GDR [East Germany]," Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said. "A compensation for their mental and physical pain is hardly possible."