Documents describe Czechoslovakia doping program

Updated: August 16, 2006, 9:22 AM ET

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Secret documents show Communist Czechoslovakia systematically and officially administered steroids and other illegal substances to athletes, including former world champion discus thrower Imrich Bugar.

The documents, copies of which were obtained by Reuters from the daily Mlada Fronta Dnes, which first uncovered them, show doctors supplied banned substances to athletes through the 1980s, when Czechoslovakia had some of its greatest sporting successes.

Coaches and high-ranking sports and government officials also had knowledge of the program, part of a Cold War campaign to show supremacy over the West, the documents showed.

Drug names such as the steroid nandrolone, norandrosterone and stanozolol appear, along with dosages and dates to be administered. Athletes in weightlifting, athletics, hockey and skiing, among others, were included, as were juniors.

Only a few doctors were informed of the program.

"The rational application of anabolic steroids will help contribute to the political promotion of sports in the communist state, and help strengthen the country's prestige," one of the documents addressed to the Czechoslovak Sports Association said.

"The top sports for us today need new access, the same that are available to the rest of the world, mainly in the areas of endocrinology, dosages of anabolic steroids, biochemistry, and dosages of other supportive means," another document added.

East Bloc states were often suspected of running official doping programs.

After Germany reunited in 1990, the government there set up a commission to look into the work of East German scientists and found that most top East German athletes had been forced to participate in doping programs.

Hundreds of German athletes suffered health problems as a result of their often unwitting use of drugs.

The Czech documents show sports such as weightlifting and athletics were targeted for doping as early as prior to the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.

Under the system, doctors and officials carried out secret urine tests of athletes ahead of major events overseas to see if they would test positive.

Experts were charged with keeping doping under control to make sure no embarrassing incidents arose.

"It was an era where a lot was kept secret," Milan Jiranek, current head of the Czech Olympic Committee, told Reuters.

"Unfortunately, we can't go back 20, 30 or 40 years. All we can do now is join fully the current battle against doping, and that is what we are doing, to help doping disappear from sport."

Some athletes were kept in the dark over the program in Czechoslovakia, while the documents show others were not only aware but sought extra doses of banned substances.

Those who refused to join the program often found themselves kicked out of their sport.

One handwritten letter shows a weightlifter asking for help from the Communist authorities because his failing health was keeping him from earning enough money.

In the letter he says a local doctor of internal medicine who examined him noted chronic liver and other problems were the result of taking anabolic steroids.

Bugar, who won the discus competition at the world championships in Helsinki in 1983 and an Olympic silver medal in 1980 in Moscow, was shocked to find his name on several of the documents obtained.

"I don't understand it. To this day, I believe I was as clean as God's word," Mlada Fronta Dnes quoted the 51-year-old Bugar as saying when shown the documents.