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Ex-East German athletes compensated for doping

FRANKFURT, Germany -- Former athletes who were victims of
East Germany's systematic doping program will get a one-time
payment as compensation for health problems and give up any other
legal action.

According to an agreement signed Wednesday in Berlin, the 167
recognized victims will each receive $12,210 by the end of
February.

The agreement ends years of legal wrangling between the victims
and German sports officials.

"We take the moral responsibility and we want to make sure that
something like that cannot happen again."
-- German sports official Thomas Bach

The German Olympic Sports Union and the federal government will
share the $2.03 million cost of the settlement, signed by the
victims and their lawyers and DOSB, the umbrella organization of
German sports.

"We take the moral responsibility and we want to make sure that
something like that cannot happen again," DOSB president Thomas
Bach said after the signing of the agreement.

The federal government will finance two-thirds of the
settlement, with the money coming from unused funds that had been
set aside for cultural activities during this year's soccer World
Cup.

Doping victims said they would lend their voice to the battle
against doping.

Their lawyer, Michael Lehner, said the payments could only
partly compensate for the wrong they suffered.

"For the victims, the most important thing was to be recognized
as such," he said.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the dissolution of
East Germany, it became clear that much of the communist country's
sporting achievements were fueled by performance-enhancing drugs
under a government-run program.

Many athletes later said they had been unwitting victims of the
program, given drugs without their knowledge while still teenagers.
Many said they had suffered permanent health problems because of
steroid use.

The victims had gone to court to demand compensation from German
sports organizations, arguing they had inherited the property and
funds of former East German sports institutions. The sports
organizations in the west had argued against being held responsible
for the doping system of former East Germany.

Lehner also asked the pharmaceuticals company Jenapharm, which
produced many of the drugs, to contribute to the payments.

The government had set up a fund for doping victims four years
ago. A total of 194 former athletes each received $13,700 under
that compensation program.

"Some athletes from the former East Germany have suffered
considerable health damage because of the state-run forced doping
in the GDR," Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said. "A
compensation for their mental and physical pain is hardly
possible."