Back in the ’70s, when there was still an East and West Germany, East Germany was very serious about winning international sports competitions, and was known to regularly dope their athletes (see also: East German swim team). Athletes were fed “performance enhancing drugs” (PEDs) — aka anabolic steroids — that bulked them up and made them more competitive. It was the East German athletes and coaches that inspired the Olympics to institute regular drug tests.
Heidi Krieger (pictured above, competing in 1987 as a woman) was a shot putter in East Germany, who won the gold medal at the 1986 European Championships. She was fed PEDs for several years, and says today that they are the reason she opted to get a sex change and live as a man. He now lives as Andreas Krieger.
Starting at 16, Krieger was systematically doped, and he wasn’t made aware of the true effects of the anabolic steroids until much later. “I still say today that they killed Heidi,” Kreiger said in a BBC interview. “It’s difficult to say whether I would be Heidi today or not but I could have decided on my own … I was thrown out of my gender.”
After years of doping, Krieger said he no longer resembled a female, and was an outsider in his own body. After struggling for years with his identity, Krieger chose, in 1997, to get a sex change.
“The old men in the regime used these young girls for their sick ambition,” Ines Geipel, a former relay runner told the BBC of the doping program. “They knew the mini-country absolutely had to be the greatest in the world. That’s sick. It’s a stolen childhood.”
Since the doping scandal was uncovered, several athletes have come forward to express their anger over being unwittingly drugged. In 2000, 32 former athletes filed a suit against the perpetrators of the doping program. And in 2004, former Olympic swimmer Karen König filed a suit against the German Olympic Committee for the drugging, aiming to use the money in the suit for therapy or medical needs. (In addition to the hormonal changes brought on by the steroids, many athletes suffer from exertion-related injuries, and internal damage to their organs from the drugs.)
But for Krieger, monetary compensation won’t change anything. He still feels as though the Heidi he once was is gone. “In our country … we were told we were taking vitamin pills that would compensate for our lack of nutrition. They played God with us back then.”