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Original Issue

East Germany made lab animals of its finest athletes-- and got away with it

FAUST'S GOLD: Inside the East German Doping Machine
by Steven Ungerleider/St. Martin's Press, $23.95

It is astonishing that the most horrific chapter in sports
history has remained a minor story, mere fodder for jokes about
brawny female swimmers with unnaturally deep voices. The pages
of this slender volume are stained with the tears of women
struggling to understand why they--once East Germany's
healthiest, most athletic girls--became guinea pigs for a
three-decade-long sports-science experiment that left them with
cancer, damaged livers and deformed children.

Ungerleider, a psychologist from Eugene, Ore., is not a polished
writer, nor will his book sell like a collection of Yogi's
witticisms. Yet Faust's Gold is an important addition to the
growing body of literature on sports doping. It documents drug
use that stretches from the Third Reich (which fed anabolic
steroids to its soldiers to build their stamina) to Mark McGwire
(who might want to thank East German scientists for pioneering
the athletic use of androstenedione). Ungerleider retraces the
detective work done by two of the few heroes in the saga, West
German-born biology professor Werner Franke and his wife,
Brigitte Berendonk, a former discus thrower who was herself a
victim of the GDR's sports system. The couple unearthed
meticulously kept doping records and pressed for the prosecution
of doctors, coaches and government officials, which eventually
took place in the same Berlin courtroom in which some Nazi
war-crimes trials had been held.

The images in Faust's Gold are haunting: teenage girls
transmogrifying into hirsute, sex-crazed Amazons because of the
little blue "vitamin" pills their trainers gave them;
steroid-boosted male athletes growing breasts and watching their
testes shrink; and Manfred Ewald, the bureaucrat who oversaw the
doping program, proudly accepting a medal from International
Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch in 1985 for
upholding "the perfect ideal of sport and humanity." Justice is
never done. At the Berlin doping trials, held from 1998 to 2000,
victims vent their anger and describe the steroid-induced
medical problems they have suffered, but Ewald and his
underlings--most of them claiming they'd just been following
orders--get off with small fines and suspended sentences. A
reunited Germany is reluctant to pick at old wounds and
acknowledge the truth: that the GDR's rise as an Olympic power
was a fraud and a tragedy.