Werner Franke: Germany’s most famous doping hunter is dead – sport

Relentless, unyielding, straight ahead. Werner Franke never stepped aside when it came to his cause. “I’m driven and will always remain so,” said Germany’s best-known doping hunter on the occasion of his 75th birthday. Franke made it his mission to fight against injustice in sport. The world-renowned cancer researcher saw the anti-doping fight as a kind of necessary evil that his strong sense of justice demanded of him. “I’m from East Westphalia, and in 9 AD not even the Romans got past us,” said Franke once about the personal background to his mission.

Together with his wife Brigitte Franke-Berendonk, the Paderborn native campaigned against fraud, and the couple delivered their masterpiece shortly after reunification. It smuggled highly sensitive documents from the vault of the National People’s Army in Bad Saarow before the papers ended up in the shredder. The confidential classified information brought the state doping of the GDR to light, broken down in 1991 in the book “Doping-Documents”, which received worldwide attention. The GDR top officials Manfred Ewald and Manfred Höppner received fines and suspended sentences in the Berlin trials in 1999/2000. During this period alone, Berendonk/Franke had to defend themselves in twelve civil and ten criminal trials.

“To this day nobody wants to know anything, nobody wants to admit it”

Franke later also won a four-year trial marathon against professional cyclist Jan Ullrich, whose deep fall he significantly accelerated. The lack of processing of the doping system in West Germany in sports and politics infuriated him: “There is nothing! On the contrary, there is still prevention. To this day nobody wants to know anything, nobody wants to admit it.” The biologist received the Federal Cross of Merit in 2004 for his fight against doping, despite immense resistance from the sport. Later, Franke, who also stood by numerous athletes wrongly accused, advised, among other things, the doping victim aid association (DOH), to which he also made his meticulously kept archive available.

He later distanced himself. Among other things, he accused the DOH officials of recognizing former athletes as doping victims despite insufficient verification procedures. The dispute escalated in 2019 when Franke was denied access to a club press conference in Berlin. “It hurts my soul. Werner Franke has done a lot for the club,” said DOH chairman and sports law expert Michael Lehner afterwards. Franke has left a legacy, not only in the fight against doping. “When I’m lying in the pit, and that’s not so far away anymore, proteins and genes that I discovered still have the names I was allowed to give them,” said Franke years ago: “That puts me satisfied.”

As Franke’s son confirmed to ARD doping expert Hajo Seppelt, Werner Franke died on Monday evening at the age of 82.

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