Doping was an issue, Breitner says
Former West Germany international Paul Breitner has told Austrian television that it would be hypocritical to deny that doping was an issue during his days as a professional.
Breitner, who helped his country to success at the 1972 European Championship and 1974 World Cup, made the comments only a day after compatriot Bernd Schuster had defended doping when used to assist recovery from injury.
There has been widespread discussion on the issue of performance-enhancing drugs since the findings of a comprehensive study by Berlin’s Humboldt University suggested a systematic sports doping system had taken place in the country.
The report was divided into three periods -- 1950-72, 1972-89 and 1989-2007 -- and former Bayern Munich and Real Madrid star Breitner, who retired from professional football in 1983, suggested it had persisted beyond his own playing career.
“It would be presumptuous if we said that doping -- and I am talking about 1986-87, thus around the time I noticed a bit -- had not been an issue,” Breitner told Servus TV on Monday, stressing that it was not only “the athletes and swimmers” who were involved in the practice.
Doping became an issue in Germany in March 1987 when former West Germany goalkeeper Harald "Toni" Schumacher released his book Anpfiff, which accused fellow professionals of taking pills and all but ended his international career.
Breitner, who made 285 Bundesliga appearances for Bayern and Eintracht Braunschweig as well as spending three years at Madrid, also indicated that he had seen evidence of doping during his time as a player.
“Anyone who denies that it was an issue is a hypocrite,” he added.
Schuster, who played alongside Breitner for West Germany, had told SportBildPlus on Sunday that doping was not an issue during his playing career “because the word, as we know it today, didn’t exist”.
The current Malaga coach, who represented West Germany between 1979 and 1984, added: “We all took something. No stimulants in the classical sense, but the doctors and physiotherapists always gave you some kinds of things, sometimes even on the mornings of games, when you didn’t feel well somehow or you were in a bit of pain.”
The 53-year-old former Barcelona and Real Madrid player is a practising member of the First Church of Christian Science, which rejects traditional medicine on the grounds that sickness is the result of mistaken beliefs, had said during his career: “Prayers, chants and natural remedy help more than medicine.” However, in 1993 he dismissed claims that traditional treatment was “forbidden” under by the religion.
Indeed, he maintains that doping should have a place within the modern game providing it is used “purely for regeneration”.
He added in SportBildPlus: “If a player is fit again after an injury in two or three weeks, then it makes good sense, but not when it is intended to bring a player to 120%, 150%, 180%. [I approve] so as long as it is not intended to increase his performance but to bring the player back as quickly as possible to the right standard.”
Schuster claimed there was “a culture now that some players have more pills and packs of tablets in their toiletry bag than deodorant or aftershave”, but said those were “only the extreme examples” and “most of the guys are only interested in proper medicine and not in all these different therapies”.
The doping report by Berlin’s Humboldt University that started the debate had raised questions over the West Germany teams from 1954, 1966 and 1974, which all reached the World Cup finals.
The German Football Association (DFB) and former Germany internationals Franz Beckenbauer and Uwe Seeler had rejected allegations that the 1966 side used performance-enhancing drugs during the tournament.
A few days later, Johnny Rep, part of the Netherlands team defeated by West Germany in the 1974 World Cup final, said he believed that the Brazil and Uruguay sides at that tournament had abused drugs and admitted he had taken amphetamines during his career.
Former Hungary star Ferenc Puskas had also accused the 1954 World Cup-winning side of doping in the wake of the final, although he later apologised for his comments.