University of Freiburg: 55 years of deception?

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30.05.2007/ The university of Freiburg hits the headlines these days with the involvement of several doctors in doping scandals. The university of Freiburg has established a commission to investigate the role of their personel. Yet it is already known that the university is doing research into doping for about 55 years.

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Rolf Aldag: victim of a corrupt system? (Picture: Cyclingheroes)

After the doping confessions of several former Telekom riders and team doctors Lothar Heinrich and Andreas Schmid of the university of Freiburg another doctor of the German university confessed to have doped riders. As reported former riders Jörg Müller and Christian Henn accused professor Huber of the university of Freiburg to have coordinated their doping programm on the German national team. Doctor Huber also was the leading doctor of the German Olympic team at the 2006 Olympic winter games and the German Ski Federation. After his confession he was sacked by the German Cycling federation, the German Ski Federation, the univerity of Freiburg and the German National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA).
The university of Freiburg installed a commission to examine the role of their doctors in the recent doping scandals. It is not the first time that sports medicine specialists of the university of Freiburg are linked with performance enhancing drugs. At the 1952 Olympic games of Helsinki middle distance runner Joseph (Josy) Barthels won a gold medal on the 1500 meters, a year before he was the number 41 of the world ranking. Barthels was coached by the legendary German trainer Woldemar Gerschler,who was leading the institute of sports of the university of Freiburg, Gerschler worked together with Professor Herbert Reindell (who worked for the university of Freiburg as well).  Between 1952 and 1954, the radiologist Oskar Wegener, who was working for Reindell at the university of Freiburg, wrote a thesis titled "The effects of performance enhancing drugs on the circulation and performance". Wegener was an insider, the middle distance runner came to Freiburg to prepare for the Olympic games of Helsinki with trainer Gerschler. Wegener did not start at the 1952 Olympics because of tonsillitis.
Erik Eggers, a journalist from Cologn, wrote on November 26 (2006) in the German daily newspaper Tagesspiegel a story about the thesis of Wegener. According to Eggers the introduction of Wegeners thesis said: "Furthermore trainer Gerschler and sports doctor Dr. Prokop reported that team attendants arrived at the olympics with mysterious substances that they gave their athletes before the start." Gerschler and Prokop also reported that the substances did not work well for every athlete, some did not reach their usual form. Gerschler told Wegener that one of his athletes was feeling so bad after he was given such substances that he had difficulties to survive the races of his discipline. Four years later the same athlete won the gold medal. More than 50 years later Wegener confirmed that this athlete was Joseph Barthels and that the gold medal winner of Luxemburg was doped during test series for his thesis. Barthels was doped with Pervitin, a substance that was used by the German army during the second world war. Pervitin overcomes fatigue and make people feel euphoric. Wegener found out that athletes doped with pervitin achieved an improvement of performance of almost 25%.
Doctor Huber, doctor Schmid and doctor Heinrich are the latest doctors from Freiburg that were linked with performance enhaning drugs, professor Herbert Reindell seems to be the first sports medicine specialist from Freiburg who doped athletes. Between the first doping cases from more than 50 years ago and the current doping scandal there is a long list of doping cases which are linked with doctors from the university of Freiburg. Reindells follower in Freiburg, doctor Joseph Keul started in 1970 with the assistence of doctor Wilfried Kindermann test series to proof that steroids were harmless. According to a conference report from 1972, Keul said: "From a medical point of view there is no concern against the use of these substances." 
During the seventies several doctors from Freiburg continued with defending the use of steroids and did test series with testosteron with nordic ski athletes. The doctors were defended by the member of the German parliament (Bundestag) Wolfgang Schäuble. Schäuble is German interior minister nowadays and is also responsible for sports. During a debate about performance enhanching drugs in the German Bundestag (1977) Schäuble said: "We only want to insert these substances restrictedly and only under the absolute control of sports medical specialist (...), because apparently there are disciplines in which without the insertion of these substances (...) we can't keep up in the world competition." At the moment Schäuble is working on a new German anti-doping law in Germany and demands severe punishments for doped athletes.
One of the sports doctors who was involved with these test series was doctor Ernst Jakob (university of Freiburg). During the 2006 Olympic winter games Jakob was also involved in the so-called 'Sachenbacher case'. The cross country athlete Evi Sachenbacher was suspended for health reasons after she was tested with high haemoglobin values. Jakob insisted that there was a natural cause for Sachenbachers high values but Sachenbacher lost her case at the international sports court TAS/CAS. The court proved with long-time tests that the only time Sachenbacher had high haemoglobin values before was at the 2002 Olympics. Jakob ist also team doctor of Gerolsteiner. Gerolsteiner team manager Hans Michael Holczer told the German online portal "Doctor Jakob is not controversial at cycling. He doesn't do performance diagnostics and training plans at our team and is not as integrated like the Freiburg doctors were at T-Mobile." Jakob also worked as a team doctor of the Bianchi team in 2003.
The state prosecution of Freiburg asked the German federal police to assist in their investigation after German professor Werner Franke filed a complaint against Lothar Heinrich and Andreas Schmid. Maybe the investigators will uncover a larger scandal: possible systematic doping of a public university, funded by tax money and external partners like Telekom. According to former Telekom pro rider Bert Dietz it was Telekom who introduced the university of Freiburg to the team: "The doctors were becoming more and more involved in our training plans, at the wish of Telekom," Dietz said during a talkshow on the German tv station ARD.

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