Heike Knechtel, former middle-distance runner

Heike Knechtel, born 1963, is 13 years old when she gains entry at the elite sports school for young athletes (KJS) at the German College for Physical Culture and Sport (SC DHfK) in Leipzig. She starts as a middle distance runner in the athletics program, only to be sent home again two short years later. Knechtel initially believes that due to her short stint there she was not subjected to substance abuse.

Over the next years, Heike completes her Master’s in Education and Social Behavioral Sciences. It is a rocky path though. Heike Knechtel has to undergo several operations.

In 2003 she is diagnosed with breast cancer. It is only when her contract as Head of the Social Support Center is put on hold in August 2014, due to “fully reduced earning capacity”, that Heike realizes she has in fact become a victim of the state’s organized doping program.

Knechtel remembers being given anabolic steroids by her coach between the ages of 13 and 15. They also had to keep records of taking what they were told were vitamin pills. Heike’s serious conditions are attested in a medical certificate—she is officially recognized as a doping victim.

Today Knechtel is a member and doping prevention officer of the Berlin-based Help for Victims of Doping (DOH) charity.

 “There was a constant screening,” she reports from her school days. It was only some time ago that she learned from a report that “doping was in the game”. Knechtel says: “The tablets were given out by the coach and we had to fill out tables, where we had to tell how many of the so-called vitamins were taken.

“I am still a life-affirming person”

The former Leichtathletie Heike Knechtel (Germany radio / Thomas Purschke)The former Leichtathletie Heike Knechtel (Deutschlandradio / Thomas Purschke)After the Abitur began her suffering history. “It went from one operation to the next.” Knechtel had a fibroid removed from the uterus, she fell ill with breast cancer and lost a breast. There followed the reconstruction, and again came a fibroid, the uterus had to be removed. “I am suffering from a chronic depression, I have anxiety, insomnia, although I am still a life-affirming person.”

Today she felt rage. “Compared to those responsible who are still in positions of responsibility.” What you and many others had done was a misunderstanding of mankind. “How much evidence is needed that the GDR was a state of unrighteousness?”