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Duped into doping, East German sues

The former world champion says she was administered steroids without her knowledge and is seeking damages.

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It's frustrating enough being addressed as "Mr. König" when she answers the phone.

But then there are bouts of depression and fears about future health problems that Karen König blames on steroids she unwittingly took as a champion East German swimmer.

"Who knows what the future will bring," says Ms. König, her deep voice suggesting an age far beyond her 36 years.

One thing König and her lawyer hope it will bring is a verdict that holds the German National Olympic Committee (NOK) financially responsible for the consequences of East Germany's systematic doping of athletes.

During the 1970s and 1980s, the communist regime gave an estimated 10,000 other athletes illegal and dangerous drugs to boost their performances - and, presumably, the German Democratic Republic's (GDR) standing in the world.

"It's a sort of trial balloon. If it's successful then it opens the way legally for others," says König's lawyer Jens Steinigen, who says that at least 140 additional athletes are waiting to see what happens with her suit.

König, a member of East Germany's 4x100 meter relay team that broke the world record in 1984, first filed a lawsuit against the NOK in 2001 but the trial was postponed numerous times. This week, it reopened to hear the testimony of witnesses in Berlin.

The former world and European champion says that the NOK, which received 5.4 million deutschmarks from the GDR's Olympic committee's coffers after reunification, bears some financial accountability for the medical problems suffered by the GDR's doping victims. The suit, which calls for 10,255 euros ($12,300) in damages, seeks to pin down the Olympic Committee's responsibility for the state-sponsored doping that helped the GDR win 384 Olympic medals from 1972 to 1988.

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