February 2, 2023

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Werner Franke, who uncovered the East German doping program, dies at the age of 82

Werner Franke, a respected molecular biologist who, along with his wife, uncovered many details of East Germany’s state-sponsored, illegal athlete doping program that brought the country a remarkable surge in Olympic glory in the 1970s and 1980s, died in Heidelberg on 11/14 , Germany. He was 82.

His son Ulrich said the cause was a brain hemorrhage.

The documents that Dr. Franke and his wife Brigitte Franke-Berendonk, a former Olympic shot putter and discus thrower found in German archives in the 1990s after the fall of the Berlin Wall, showed the breadth of the government’s plan to use androgenic steroids, primarily small blue pills called Oral -Turinabol and hormones to increase the chances of its athletes to win medals in international competitions, especially the Olympic Games.

“Several thousand athletes were treated with androgens each year, including minors of all genders,” wrote Dr. Franke and Mrs. Franke-Berendonk in the journal Clinical Chemistry in 1997. “Particular attention has been paid to the administration of androgens to women and adolescent girls, as this practice has been shown to be particularly effective for athletic performance.”

dr Franke became a vocal anti-doping expert, helping former athletes who were suing their doctors and coaches by giving them documents and scientific information about the drugs they were taking. He also made documents available to the public prosecutor’s office.

“The depth of East Germany’s doping culture encompassed the world of politics and sport, an interweaving of powerful men,” said John Hoberman, an expert on East Germany’s doping culture who wrote Mortal Engines: The Science of Performance and Dehumanization of Sport. (1992). “That was the environment in which Franke and Berendonk operated as beacons of integrity.”

Travis T. Tygart, executive director of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, said in a statement that Dr. Franke was a “fierce advocate of a clean sport” and “one of the few who had the courage to speak out and demand better things for athletes.”

Although there was a suspicion over the years that East Germany’s international success was due to more than just improved training methods, Franke’s research laid down the country’s systematic program – the state planning theme 14.25 – in which doctors, scientists, trainers and the national sports hierarchy were involved and government.

The plan had worked. At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, East German athletes won 25 medals, including nine gold medals. At the Munich Summer Games in 1972, they won 69 medals, 23 of them gold. Four years later they won 94 medals in Montreal, 42 of them gold; Amazingly, 11 of the 13 women’s swimming competitions were won by East Germans.

The Frankes described it as “one of the greatest pharmacological experiments in history,” with many of the drugs being manufactured by state-sponsored companies and an awareness of side effects for women such as increased body hair, over-muscled physique, ovarian infections and infertility. A shot put champion, Heidi Krieger, was so damaged by the changes in her body caused by heavy steroid use that she decided to undergo transition surgery and became Andreas.

“Not only have you empowered women,” said Dr. Franke told Sports Illustrated in 2003. “They masculine her.”

Werner Wilhelm Franke was born on January 31, 1940 in Paderborn, Germany. His father Wilhelm worked for Deutsche Bahn; his mother, Rosa (Kröger) Franke, was a housewife. He studied biology, physics and chemistry at the University of Heidelberg, earning the equivalent of a master’s degree in 1966 and a doctorate the next year from the same school.

He began his academic career in 1967 as an assistant professor of biology at the University of Freiburg. In the same year he met his future wife, who had emigrated from the GDR to the Federal Republic of Germany in 1958. First dr. Franke, who ran the 800 and 1,500 meters for a club as a teenager, was her coach and took her to the 1968 and 1972 Summer Olympics, where she placed eighth and eleventh in the discus throw. In 1973 she became German champion in shot put.

They married in 1975. Until then, Mrs. Franke-Berendonk had told her husband that she suspected that some East German athletes, some of whom she had competed against, were taking 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 secret documents outlining the doping drug program were being held at a military facility in Bad Saarow, Germany, near Berlin, and received a court order to review them. From these notes, the Frankes wrote Doping: From Research to Deceit (1991), which only bore Ms. Franke-Berendonk’s name 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,” said Dr. Franke 2004 of the New York Times, referring to the Canadian sprinter who was stripped of the gold medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul after testing positive for a steroid.

dr Franke found and copied the files at a random point in German history.

He told London’s Daily Telegraph in 2003 that “the change due to reunification happened so quickly – already the West German military had taken over and the East Germans were no longer in power. So I was able to take advantage of this gap, which only existed for a few weeks in the story.”

In 1994 he gained access to an archive of the Stasi, the East German secret police, which was deeply involved in the doping program. The files revealed, among other things, the collaboration of doctors with the government. In a certain doctor’s chart, which included the medication logs of the athletes he mentored, the doctor wrote, “In most events, world-class performance cannot be achieved without the use of assistive devices” — a euphemism for steroids.

The files that Dr. Franke showed The Telegraph also included a list of how much various athletes improved from using steroids, including male discus throwers (10 to 12 meters), female 400-meter sprinters (five to 10 seconds) and javelin throwers (eight to 10 seconds). 15 meters).

dr Franke was one of Europe’s loudest public voices against doping for 30 years.

“He wanted to correct the record of everything that was wrong with competition and doping,” said Steven Ungerleider, author of Faust’s Gott: Inside the East German Doping Machine (2001) in a telephone interview. “But it was his wife who encouraged him.” He added: “He wanted to help all the athletes, especially the 1976 team that had been betrayed by East Germany.”

In the 2000s, Dr. Franke to correct the record of two top cyclists, Jan Ullrich, a German who won the 1997 Tour de France, and Alberto Contador, a Spaniard.

In the Ullrich case, Dr. Franke Insight into Spanish police files from an investigation into a drug scandal that linked Ullrich to a payment of 35,000 euros to a doctor for doping.

“I looked at the file on Jan Ullrich that was created in Madrid,” he told a German television station in 2006, “and I can only say that I haven’t seen so much bad stuff in a long time.”

Ullrich initially denied the allegation and went to a German court to have Dr. To impose a muzzle on Franke, which was eventually lifted. In 2013, Ullrich admitted to doping.

2007 brought dr. Franke Contador linked to the same scandal; the cyclist was exonerated by the Spanish Cycling Federation; However, he was later 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 the title.

In addition to his wife and son, Dr. Franke a daughter, Friederike Franke; a granddaughter and a sister, Monika Gutheim.

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

His research on the proteins of the cytoskeleton – the protein framework that gives cells shape and support – has helped to identify and classify tumor cells based on the molecular properties of these proteins.