Werner Franke, who exposed East Germany’s doping scheme, dies aged 82

Werner Franke, a well-respected molecular biologist, who with his wife revealed many details about East Germany’s illegal, state-sponsored athlete doping program that brought about for this country outstanding Olympic glory in the 1970s and 1980s, passed away on 11/11/14 in Heidelberg, Germany. He was 82.

His son, Ulrich, said the cause was a brain hemorrhage.

Documents that Dr Franke and his wife, Brigitte Franke-Berendonk, a former Olympic pitcher and discus thrower, found in the 1990s in German archives after the fall of the Berlin Wall, show scale of the government’s male hormone plan. , most notably small blue pills called Oral-Turinabol and pheromones, to increase athletes’ chances of winning medals at international competitions, especially the Olympics.

Dr Franke and Ms. Franke-Berendonk said: “Thousands of athletes are treated with androgens each year, including adolescents of each sex. wrote in 1997 in the journal Clinical Chemistry. “Particular attention has been paid to male hormone management for women and adolescent girls because it has been shown to be particularly effective for athletic performance.”

Dr. Franke has become a vocal anti-doping expert who has helped former athletes who have sued their doctors and coaches by providing them with documentation and scientific information about the drug. they used. He also provided documents to prosecutors.

“The depth of doping culture in East Germany embraces the worlds of politics and sport, the interweaving of powerful men,” he said. John Hoberman, an expert on East German doping culture who wrote “The Mortal Machine: The Science of Performance and the Dehumanization of Sport” (1992). “It is an environment in which Franke and Berendonk operate as beacons of integrity.”

Travis T. TygartThe chief executive officer of the US Anti-Doping Agency, said in a statement that Dr Franke was a “vehement advocate for clean sport” and was “one of the few who had the courage to speak out and better requirements for athletes.”

Although there were many years of suspicions that East Germany’s international success was not solely due to improved training methods, Frankes’ research led to the nation’s systematic program – known as State Plan theme 14.25 – featuring doctors, scientists, coaches and the nation’s sports hierarchy. and government.

The plan was successful. At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, East German athletes won 25 medals, including nine gold. At the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics, they won 69 medals, including 23 gold. Four years later, in Montreal, they won 94 medals, including 42 gold; amazingly, 11 of the 13 women’s swim events went to East Germans.

Frankes describes it as “one of the largest pharmacological experiments in history,” with many drugs manufactured by state-funded companies and aware of side effects for women such as excessive body hair, oversized muscles, ovarian infections and infertility. Once brought the champion, Heidi Krieger, severely traumatized by the changes in her body due to the heavy use of steroids, she decides to undergo gender reassignment surgery and become Andreas.

“They’re not just empowering women,” Dr. Franke told Sports Illustrated in 2003. “They’re masculinizing them.”

Werner Wilhelm Franke was born on January 31, 1940 in Paderborn, Germany. His father, Wilhelm, worked for the German railways; His mother, Rosa (Kröger) Franke, is a homemaker. He studied biology, physics and chemistry at the University of Heidelberg and obtained an equivalent master’s degree in 1966 and a doctorate the following year from the same school.

He began his academic career as an assistant professor of biology at the University of Freiburg in 1967, the same year he met his future wife, who had emigrated from East Germany to West Germany in 1958. At first, Dr. Franke, who ran 800 and 1,500 meter races for a club as a teenager, was her coach, guiding her to the 1968 Summer Olympics. and 1972, where she finished eighth and 11th in the discus throw. She was the German champion in shooting in 1973.

They were married in 1975. Franke-Berendonk told her husband at the time that she suspected that East German athletes, some of whom she had competed with, were using performance-enhancing drugs. But they couldn’t prove it until after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Dr. Franke learned in 1990 that classified documents outlining the doping drug program were stored in a military facility in Bad Saarow, Germany, near Berlin and had received a court order to review them. From those records, Frankes wrote “Doping: From Research to Deceit” (1991), named only after Ms. Franke-Berendonk because she was better known at the time. The book revealed medical records and dosages showing that Heidi Krieger received 2,590 milligrams of Oral-Turinabol in 1986.

“That’s about 1,000 milligrams more than Ben Johnson got in 1988,” Dr. Franke told The New York Times in 2004, refers to the Canadian sprinter who was stripped of his gold medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul after testing positive for steroids.

Dr. Franke found and copied the files at an accidental time in German history.

He told The Daily Telegraph of London in 2003 that “the change resulting from reunification happened so quickly – the West German military ranks took over and the East Germans were no longer in power. So this gap, which has only existed for a few weeks in history, I was able to exploit.”

In 1994, he gained access to an archive of the Stasi, the East German secret police, deeply involved in the doping program. The files reveal, among other things, the doctors’ cooperation with the government. In the profile of a particular doctor that included the dosing regimens of the athletes under his care, this doctor wrote: “For the majority of events, it is not possible to achieve performance. world class without the use of supportive means” – a euphemism for steroids.

The files, which Dr Franke showed The Telegraph, also list how much different athletes can improve using steroids, including the male discus thrower (10 to 12 metres) , female athletes 400 meters (5 to 10 seconds) and female javelin throwers (eight to 15 meters).

For 30 years, Dr. Franke has been one of Europe’s largest public voices against doping.

Steven Ungerleider, author of “Faust’s God: Inside the East German Doping Machine” (2001) said: “He wanted to fix the record on all the things that happened. competition and doping misconduct. “But it was his wife who pushed him to keep going.” He added, “He wanted to help all the athletes, especially the 1976 team that was betrayed by East Germany.”

In the 2000s, Dr. Franke sought to correct the records of two top cyclists, Jan Ullrich, the 1997 Tour de France winner from Germany, and Alberto Contador, the Spaniard.

In the case of Ullrich, Dr Franke received access to Spanish police files from the investigation into a drug scandal that forced Ullrich to pay €35,000 to a doctor for drug use. doping.

“I’ve seen the profile of Jan Ullrich compiled in Madrid,” he told a German television station in 2006, “and all I can say is that it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a lot of bad stuff. so,”

At first, Ullrich denied the charge and went to a German court to impose a gag order on Dr. Franke, which was eventually overturned. In 2013, Ullrich admitted to doping.

2007, Dr. Franke Link Contador to the same scandal; cyclists have been exonerated by the Spanish cycling federation; but then he was banned for two years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, for testing positive for the drug clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour de France. He won the race but was stripped of his title.

In addition to his wife and son, Dr. Franke is survived by a daughter, Friederike Franke; a niece and a sister, Monika Gutheim.

Throughout his anti-doping activities, Dr. Franke continued his scientific work. In 1973, he joined the German Center for Cancer Research as professor of biology and head of the center’s research department. He holds various positions there until mid-2021.

His research on cytoskeleton proteins — the protein scaffolds that give cells shape and support — helped identify and classify tumor cells from the molecular characteristics of those proteins.


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