Episode 1

At the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, East Germany won 25 medals. Twenty years later in Seoul, the Soviet Union headed the medals table, but second was not the USA but a nation of just 17 million people - the German Democratic Republic.

To achieve this success, the East German state ensured that it had the best of everything - facilities and equipment, coaching and medical back-up, psychological testing and dietary supplements. However, it was the scale of state sponsored doping - State Plan 14.25 - that set East Germany apart from any other sporting nation.

Over a twenty year period in the 1970s and 1980s, up to 10,000 athletes were chemically doped. Each year hundreds of thousands of steroid pills were administered. And the programme worked. East Germany became synonymous with gold medals and world records.

At its height, the programme employed up to 1,500 scientists and doctors. This was all backed up with the utmost secrecy - brutally enforced by the secret police, the Stazi.

Then, in November 1989, a dramatic moment in history occurred - the Berlin Wall came down. With the fall of the wall, East Germany's sporting structure also collapsed.

One of the many legacies of a united Germany has been how it deals with the effects of State Plan 14.25. Hundreds of athletes have been left with long term physical ailments; particularly in the case of female competitors. Many of those affected feel they have been let down by the authorities. They have been left to live with the often appalling health problems associated with years of drug abuse, drugs that were often administered to children as young as eleven.

On the eve of the World Athletics Championships in Berlin, BBC Science reporter Matt McGrath investigates the legacy of East Germany's sporting system in part one of a two part Discovery special - Sport's Greatest Cover Up.

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28 minutes

Last on

Sun 9 Aug 2009 13:32 GMT

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