Documents describe Czechoslovakia doping program

8/16/2006 - NHL

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

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.