INHDR commentary - Hunt & Mueller

The Dr. Steven Ungerleider GDR Collection in Honor of Professor Werner Franke and Brigette Berendonk at the University of Texas at Austin: A Research Note

The Dr. Steven Ungerleider GDR Collection in Honor of Professor Werner Franke and Brigette Berendonk at the University of Texas at Austin: A Research Note

 

By: Thomas M. Hunt and Anne Mueller

The University of Texas at Austin

 

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the reunified Germany conducted trials to hold former German Democratic Republic (hereinafter “GDR”) authorities, including those in charge of sport and athlete development, responsible for their transgressions. As part of the trial proceedings, a number of records were compiled––including scientific, medical, and secret police reports as well as deposition transcripts of former GDR athletes and physicians. In conducting the research for his 2001 book Faust’s Gold: Inside the East German Doping Machine, Dr. Steven Ungerleider obtained copies of many of these records.[1] These copies were eventually donated to The University of Texas at Austin in the form of the “Dr. Steven Ungerleider GDR Collection in honor of Professor Werner Franke and Brigette Berendonk.” The collection is today administered by the Texas Program in Sports and Media––a sub-unit of UT-Austin’s College of Communications.[2]

 

The scientific and medical reports within the collection reveal the extent of the research effort that went into the creation of the most notorious doping program in history. Within the GDR system, an individually tailored drug regimen was created for each participating athlete. The health consequences of these regimens constitute a focal point of the deposition transcripts within the Ungerleider Collection. Some of the victims included adolescents who were informed that they were taking vitamins rather than potentially harmful performance-enhancing drugs. All participants who knew the truth as to what they were taking were sworn to secrecy. Some athletes were fortunate enough to avoid any negative health repercussions; others were not so lucky.

 

Some of the most significant records within the Ungerleider Collection pertain to Dr. Manfred Höppner, a leading official within the Sports Medical Service of the GDR and the person in primary charge of the East German doping program’s day-to-day operations. Somewhat surprisingly, the records provide evidence that Dr. Höppner felt at least some responsibility to limit the negative health effects of the GDR’s doping protocols. Perhaps the most compelling of these relates to a rejection by him of a request to administer human growth hormone to East German athletes.[3]

 

GDR sport scientists and athletics officials did not operate under their own initiative, of course. Their efforts were instead overseen by the set of administrators in charge of the broader East German sport system.[4] In addition, everything was conducted in coordination with the country’s infamous Stasi secret police organization.[5] The Stasi formulated a system of reporting on individuals involved in the doping program through the use of Informeller Mitarbeiters (hereinafter “IM”), translated as “Unofficial Collaborators.” The IM reports within the Ungerleider GDR Collection offer a glimpse into the secret police’s inner workings. Their content is simultaneously chilling and fascinating.

 

This all said, scholars who use the collection should make sure to keep in mind its limitations as well as its strengths. The government’s doping scheme involved approximately 10,000 East German athletes. Only a small percentage of this number agreed to testify during the post-Cold War trials, however. The collection thus falls far short of a complete record of athlete experience. In considering the words of those athletes who did choose to testify––as well as of those involved in running the GDR doping program who were forced to––historians should recognize the reality of legal testimony––to provide an account of the past most advantageous to the one giving the testimony. So long as these issues are kept in mind, the documents in the Ungerleider collection can be of immense value to those conducting research on the Cold War-era East Germany doping system.


[1] The book’s full citation is Steven Ungerleider, Faust’s Gold: Inside The East German Doping Machine (Macmillan, 2001).

[2]

See, for a more detailed overview of the collection, “A Guide to the Dr. Steven Ungerleider GDR Collection in Honor of Professor Werner Franke and Brigitte Berendonk,” n.d., The Texas Program in Sports Media, The University of Texas at Austin, www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utpsm/00001/psm-00001.html.

[3] Manfred Höppner, Deposition Transcript, May 21, 1996, Ungerleider Collection, The University of Texas at Austin, p. 15.

[4] For a comprehensive scholarly text on the GDR sport system, see Mike Dennis and Jonathan Grix, Sport under Communism: Behind the East German “Miracle” (Basingstoke, GB: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

[5] On the Stasi’s relationship with the GDR sport system, begin with Mike Dennis, “Securing the Sports ‘Miracle’: The Stasi and East German Elite Sport,” International Journal of the History of Sport 29, no. 18 (2012): 2551–2574.