Eighty percent of male track and field athletes who were tested for drugs at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul were likely taking anabolic steroids, a former West German athlete told an inquiry Wednesday.
However, Bernd Heller, now a television sports commentator, admitted his knowledge was second-hand - and possibly inaccurate at that.Heller testified that Dr. Mannfred Donike, a member of the International Olympic Committee's medical commission and head of the IOC-accredited drug-testing laboratory in Cologne, West Germany, gave him the 80 percent figure - saying it was based on his own studies.
"He told me he had the chance to test the urine samples of Seoul in respect to the question of drug abuse," Heller said, explaining that Donike's retesting of the samples focused on suspicious endocrine profiles. The use of anabolic steroids can change such profiles dramatically.
"Eighty percent were positive," Heller said. "But he (Donike) told me it is not possible to have any conclusion from this."
Donike is expected to testify at the federal inquiry into drugs in sports, led by Charles Dubin, associate chief justice of Ontario. Donike was not available for comment Wednesday.
The probe was prompted by Ben Johnson's positive drug test at Seoul. The sprinter, who testified this week that he had knowingly taken steroids, was stripped of his gold medal in the 100-meter when a urine test showed evidence of the banned steroid stanozolol. When the scandal broke, Johnson maintained that he had never knowingly taken banned drugs. Johnson was among 10 Olympians who failed drug tests in Seoul.
Heller admitted he might be wrong about the damning statistics - but said he does not believe so. He later added the figure was based on all 1988 Olympic medalists in track and field as well as non-medalists selected for random drug tests at the Summer Games.
"It might be possible that I understood him wrong," Heller said outside the Toronto hearing room, adding that in a recent conversation, Donike denied ever making such statements.
"He told me the IOC doesn't allow him to publicize those figures, which was a surprise to me."
Heller quoted Donike saying the results of endocrine testing will be made public at a meeting of the IOC medical commission Oct. 11 and 12 in Moscow.
In earlier testimony, Heller said Johnson's positive test for stanozolol sparked a run on the banned drug on the black market in Europe - as others sought the drug that helped power the world's fastest man.
However, the testimony was disputed outside the hearing room by several European observers at the Dubin inquiry, who said the drug, known overseas under the brand name Stromba, has long been the steroid of choice among bodybuilders and other black-market customers.
The witness, a former pole vaulter and decathlete, echoed coach Charlie Francis' sentiment that it is impossible to win without drugs in some sports.
"I believe that in the throwing events (such as) discuss, shot put, to get into the world class, it is not possible to be done without (drugs.)"