By Duncan Mackay
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

altSeptember 15 - A major doping scandal is brewing in South Africa involving former East German head coach Dr Ekkart Arbeit (pictured), who allegedly ordered that suspicious drugs were administered to the country's top sprinter.



It is another major blow to the sport there that is still reeling from the gender row scandal involving world 800 metres champion Caster Semenya.

The Citizen newspaper claims to have seen a forensic report from auditing firm Deloitte which discovered that Athletics South Africa (ASA) head coach Arbeit allegedly instructed the team doctor to give a suspicious substance to Geraldine Pillay, the 2004 African 100 metres champion and 2006 Commonwealth Games silver medallist.

The report was compiled after Deloitte was instructed to probe ASA’s financial affairs and other irregularities in the wake of the Semenya scandal.

Before taking up his role in South Africa, Arbeit coached Britain's Olympic 2000 heptathlon champion Denise Lewis as she prepared for the defence of her title in Athens in 2004.

There is no suggestion that Arbeit administered illegal drugs to Lewis.

The South African Sports Confederation and Olympics Committee (SASCOC) has been given the report, The Citizen reported.

It is claimed that during a search of the office of ASA manager Molatelo Malehopo, they found "a small container containing a small ampule named Actovegin".

Investigators also found e-mails showing that ASA team doctor Dr Maaki Ramagole allegedly injected Pillay with the substance between April and May in 2008.

altRamagole sent Malehopo an e-mail on May 6, 2008, expressing her concerns over the administration of the drug, which is a calf-blood extract, to Pillay, who also won a bronze medal in the 200m at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.

Actovegin is not banned, but the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) keeps a suspicious eye on its use by athletes.

Ramagole wrote: "Hi, this is what Ekkart gave Geraldine and asked me to inject.
 
"I only checked it now on the Internet and I am worried that it is a banned substance.

"Please confirm with Harold [Dr Harold Adams, former ASA team doctor].”

Actovegin is suspected to be used as a component of sophisticated blood doping methods, in which athletes withdraw, manipulate, and re-inject their blood to boost their endurance, or in conjunction with the use of erythropoietin (EPO).

Actovegin is rich in iron, manganese, amino acids, and other nutrients that are important in achieving the physiological transformations that dopers are seeking to achieve, according to WADA.

Further e-mails reveal how Wilfred Daniels, the former ASA team coach, wrote to Arbeit criticising him for not checking the status of the drug with the ASA medical committee.

"Dear Ekkart, please read the comments of Dr Maaki and the accompanying article regarding the banning of Actovegin," he wrote in an e-mail discovered by Deloitte.

"Let us in future first have our medical committee comment on the status of substances we want to administer before we provide them to athletes.

"This is a very serious situation with the potential of a major international drug scandal which ASA cannot afford.

"I trust that, with immediate effect, you and me will work together even more closely to ensure that we stay on the right side of the anti-doping fight."

Arbeit was head coach for throwing events of the East German track and field team from 1982-1988 and chief coach in 1989-1990 when the Berlin Wall came down.

He claims never to have personally given drugs to athletes, but he allegedly oversaw such use and helped the East German Government develop their doping policy from 1968, helping turn them into a major sporting superpower.

Arbeit was also exposed as an informer for the East German secret police, the Stasi.

In 1995, Professor Werner Franke led a German Parliamentary investigation into the use of drugs in sport in the former communist country, and unearthed files that showed that Arbeit, operating under the codename Claus Tisch, had filed more than 1,000 pages of spy reports to the Stasi.

Franke also said that Arbeit had reported two doctors to the East German authorities for refusing to administer drugs to athletes.

As coach of the South African team that competed at the World Championships in Berlin last year he inevitably became embroiled in the scandal involving Semenya whose gender came under scrutiny.

Semenya was never coached by Arbeit.

altBut under his programme in East Germany, the 1986 European shot put champion Heidi Krieger (pictured) claims she had received so many banned anabolic steroids as part of the state-sponsored drug programme that she needed to have a sex-change surgery.

Adams is quoted in the report as saying that he reported the matter regarding Pillay to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

The IAAF reportedly said the drug was not banned at the time, but was categorised as a restricted substance.

Deloitte has recommended that SASCOC investigate the matter further, The Citizen claimed.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]