Kłobukowska and Krieger.
These names may not be
familiar to most people but each is significant in the world of Olympic sport
in their own way, and they are both key figures in two of the biggest issues
affecting sport today – gender verification and drugs.
The issue of gender
verification at the Olympics was covered briefly in my “Olympic Countdown”article in 2012. An update of the situation will be given in a few months under
the letter “X” of my “Olympic Alphabet”.
The two athletes are Ewa
Kłobukowska and Andreas Krieger. They never competed in the same years, in fact
twenty years separate their careers, but both are inextricably linked.
Ewa Klobukowska may be a
name familiar to some people of a certain age. She was a sprint world record
holder, European women’s 100m champion and Olympic gold medallist in the
women’s 4x100m relay. When the International Olympic Committee (IOC) introduced
a new gender test for athletes Ewa was the first to be forced to return all her
Gender testing by
scientific and medical means was in its infancy in the 1960s and many of the
tests were unreliable as accurate indicators of gender. Ewa Kłobukowska’s case
is an example of this. The first tests undertaken were at the 1966 European
Athletics Championships in Budapest. These were the games in which Ewa became
European 100m champion and 200, silver medallist. She also won the 4x100m relay
gold medal with the same team who won the Tokyo 1964 Olympic title.
In one of those quirks of
history those European Championships in 1966 were held one month after the
birth of a future athlete who was an unwitting victim of the very reason why
athletes like Ewa were subjected to gender testing in the first place.
[NOTE: I will refer to Andreas Krieger as “Heidi” and refer to him
as female in relation to events prior to 1997 because that was the name by
which he was known when a competitive athlete. I do not intend to cause any
offense and apologise to anyone who might object to this.]
Heidi Krieger was born in
July 1966 in East Berlin. East German athletics at that time was heavily based
on a programme called State Plan 14.25. During the Cold War era of the 1960s
East and West were constantly trying to out-do each other on the international
stage, the Space Race being a prime example. In sport this rivalry was also
strongly felt. East Germany had no significantly successful athletes compared
to West Germany. That’s when State Plan 14.25 came into action in the
With the use of steroids
and performance-enhancing drugs the state-run sports organisation Deutscher
Sportausschuss sanctioned the deliberate administration of these drugs to
athletes, many of whom were unaware of what they were actually being given.
The use of steroids in
sport was widely used in the Communist states and the USSR in particular, and
Eastern European states followed suit. The result of the steroids being pumped
into athletes led to some commentators to wonder about the gender of many
successful female athletes. Many were beginning to look like men and
international sporting bodies began to develop the first scientific gender
tests. The object of those tests was to determine the chromosomes in an
athlete’s cell. An XX result meant two X chromosomes were present and the
athlete was female, while and XY result meant the athlete was male.
Ewa Kłobukowska was one of
the first victims of those early tests. She had passed all previous gender
verification requirements, which was to stand naked in front of a group of
women physicians who then decided whether an athlete was female or not. The new
test looked at the athlete’s chromosomes and the presence of male hormones
(which includes steroids). Two of the most famous and successful female
athletes, however, refused to take part in the new scientific tests and never
competed again. These were the Soviet sisters Irina and Tamara Press. Rumours
had gone around for years that they were actually men, but the true story may
never be learnt. Were they intersexed? Had they been pumped full of steroids so
that they developed male physical characteristics?
The new test showed that
Ewa had “one chromosome too many”, as it has been described. Her chromosomes
were XXY. All human cells contain X chromosomes. Women have two, but one folds
in on itself and becomes inactive. This chromosome is called a Barr Body. In
these early tests the presence of a Y chromosome was enough to have the athlete
declared male. However, in Ewa’s situation the Y chromosome was also inactive.
In scientific terms Ewa had Klinefelter Syndrome. Even though in normal
circumstances that would indicate she was male, in biological fact she was
female because she has two X chromosomes, one of which was a Barr Body. Ewa
Kłobukowska was the first Olympic champion to be banned and stripped of her
medals. Ironically, had she taken the test a year later she would have taken
the new Barr Body test which would have declared her female.
It was in the run-up to
the Grenoble 1968 Winter Olympics that the IOC introduced the Barr Body test.
The first athlete to fail this new test was a skiing champion Erika Schinegger
who was training for her first Olympic appearance. She too was banned from
Meanwhile, back in East Germany
athletes were still being pumped with drugs, either by injection or pill, and
the debate over the gender of very masculine-looking female athletes continued.
East Germany’s improved Olympic success was very noticeable and after 1968 they
rarely appeared below third in the gold medal table.
East German officials
scouted the nation’s schools for potential champions, and one of these was
Heidi Krieger. In 1982 she was selected to attend a youth sports academy and
the regime of drug administration began. This was the norm for East German
By 1984 Heidi was
developing male characteristics due to the male hormones and steroids. She was
scheduled to be part of the East German team for the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics
but in the end she became victim to more political machinations by being forced
to join the East German boycott of those games. Even though she never became a
true Olympian her place on the selected team for 1984 still qualifies her for
inclusion in Olympic history.
Heidi was not selected for
the following Seoul 1988 Olympics, though she had become European women’s shot
put champion in 1986. A hip injury forced her retirement in 1990. The previous
year the Berlin Wall came down and the Communist states of eastern Europe
collapsed. The administration of drugs and steroids stopped, but it was another
three years before records of the doping programme became known.
The resulting scandal
revealed the full extent of the corruption in East German sport. Heidi Krieger
was just one of an estimated 10,000 athletes who received performance-enhancing
drugs, some of them as young as 10. Nearly 300 former athletes, coaches and
doctors gave evidence at the subsequent investigation and trials, including
Apart from the many
medical and psychological effects of the drugs Heidi was also effected by her
own questions concerning her gender. It would be appropriate now to use Krieger’s
present name, Andreas. Even today, 37 years after transitioning, Andreas is
bitter about not being allowed to discover his gender naturally and believes
that the steroids and male hormones that were pumped into him had a negative
effect on him psychologically.
But some good has come
from the experience. At the investigations and trials he met his present wife
Uwe, also a victim of state doping. Today Andreas Krieger is a leading advocate
in Germany against drugs in sports.
The stories of both Ewa
Kłobukowska and Andreas Krieger have been the subject of many documentaries
over the years. And for Andreas at least the legacy remains an important part
of the fight against doping. In 2000 the Heidi Krieger Prize was instituted by
Berlin’s Doping-Opfer-Hilfe en Verein which was set up in 1999 to support the
victims of State Plan 14.25. The prize is awarded almost annually to a person
who has championed anti-doping in sport. The award is pictured below. At its
centre is the very gold medal Andreas Krieger won in 1986 at the European
And here we are in 2016,
in the 50th and 30th anniversary years respectively of
Ewa Kłobukowska and Andreas Krieger becoming European champions and world
athletics is still facing challenges that changed the lives of them both.