Manfred Donike, German Drug-Testing Pioneer, Dies


Manfred Donike, the German biochemist who started the international sports world’s war on anabolic steroids with a portable laboratory at the 1983 Pan American Games, and remained its most aggressive and authoritative general, died Monday, apparently of a heart attack. He was 61.

In sports’ most sensational drug bust, Donike and technicians from the Institute for Biochemistry at the German Sports University in Cologne administered the testing that produced 19 positives and caused many other athletes to flee the 1983 Pan Am Games at Caracas, Venezuela, before they could be tested.

That was the first signal that governing bodies such as the International Olympic Committee and the Pan American Sports Organization were serious about eradicating banned performance-enhancing drugs, a crusade Donike was still leading last year when his laboratory was essential in the testing that confirmed the presence of a relatively rare anabolic steroid in 11 Chinese athletes in the Asian Games at Hiroshima, Japan.


As secretary of the IOC’s doping subcommittee since 1980 and also as a member of the medical commission of the International Amateur Athletic Federation, which oversees track and field, he also was prominent in the hearings that led to the suspension of Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson after he had tested positive for a steroid during the 1988 Summer Olympics at Seoul, South Korea.

When Johnson’s defenders said unknown co-conspirators had spiked the athlete’s drink after the 100-meter race, an exasperated Donike replied, “How can anyone seriously state such nonsense?”

German IOC member Thomas Bach said Donike “brought the fight against doping into popular consciousness.”

Donike, survived by his wife and three sons, was en route to Harare, Zimbabwe, to set up a laboratory for next month’s African Games when he died.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.