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Doctors and politicians in Germany are demanding stricter laws for sports medicine after three doctors were discovered to have given performance enhancing drugs to professional cyclists.
Two of the three doctors, from Freiburg University Hospital, were suspended last week by the university when they admitted doping professional cyclists. In separate statements, Lothar Heinrich and Andreas Schmid said that they gave the blood cell stimulating hormone erythropoietin to the cycling team of the German telephone company Deutsche Telekom, now T-Mobile.
The confessions were made after several cyclists had recently publicly admitted to taking drugs for performance and accused the doctors of involvement.
“I admit that I supported doping individual cycling professionals from the mid-1990s,” Dr Schmid said in a statement released by his attorney. Previously, he and his colleague had denied any wrongdoing.
Freiburg prosecutors are investigating and the university has also promised a full independent investigation into the past 20 years of its participation in sports medicine and its possible involvement in doping.
The incident had spread to amateur ranks a few days later when another doctor from the Freiburg sports medicine department who had worked several times for German Olympic teams (not only cyclists) admitted giving performance boosting testosterone to riders as far back as 1980.
The third doctor, Georg Huber, was suspended by both German cycling authorities and the University of Freiburg. Two former cyclists had triggered his resignation, naming him in a newspaper story and claiming that doping in amateur German cycling was widespread long before team Telekom.
Several representatives from doctors' organisations such as Klaus Bittmann, chairman of the NAV Virchow-Bund, demanded that active doping should be punished with the withdrawal of the licence to practise medicine. However, a conviction in court would be a prerequisite.
Werner Franke, a cell biologist from Heidelberg and scientific doping adviser to the government, said that active doping could be seen as an infringement of German medicines law. “However, the German doctors' associations have a problem with criminalising the misbehaviour of a colleague,” said Dr Franke.
The German Sports Medicine Association decided that all its members who look after athletes, professional and lay, must sign a statement distancing themselves from any doping. In Germany 11000 doctors are qualified in sports medicine; only about 200 are involved in the care of athletes.
Meanwhile, the German government is planning to tighten antidoping laws by establishing a task force and punishing the possession of doping drugs.