Just as with many other Communist nations in the past, the North Korean women’s World Cup team has now seen its athletes test positive for steroids. The Chosun Ilbo interviewed an anonymous North Korean defector who says the scandal should go much deeper. Original article in Korean is at this link.

Five North Koreans athletes who participated in the 2011 women’s World Cup in Germany are being rumored to have used steroids or other banned substances, and there has now been testimony that “I manufactured banned substances for the North Korea national team.”

Mr. A, a high-ranking North Korean defector known to have been involved in North Korean sport organizations, said on July 19 that “the Sports Science Research Institute, which is affiliated with the Physical Culture and Sports Ministry, has factories in the Pyongyang areas of Daetaryeong2-dong and Seoseong-gu, and they specialize in making substances for athletic training… Outwardly they appear to be energy drinks but they are actually banned substances.”

North Korea Soccer WCup Doping

North Korea's players leave the pitch for a doping test after the group C match against Colombia. Pic: AP.

The defector said that, “North Korea learned the techniques of manufacturing these substances by sending employees of the Physical Culture and Sports Ministry to East Germany in the second half of the 1980s… they can recover their strength and pass a doping test.” The defector added that “in North Korea it is a daily thing for athletes to take drugs… Ri Myeong-seong, a member of the joint North-South team at the sixth [actually eighth] FIFA World Youth Championship in Portugal in June of 1991, was rebuked by the South Korean coaching staff for offering drugs.”

The North Korean military also manufactures drugs for athletes. According to Mr. A, since the 1970s the North Korean military has manufactured drugs to enhance its soldiers’ fighting abilities at the 11th Hospital of the People’s Army, and its athletes used the drugs on the 4.25 Sports Team.

The lead persons in charge of the manufacture of these drugs in North Korea are Physical Culture and Sports Minister Park Myeong-cheol and First Vice Minister Jang Ung. Park Myeong-cheol, who became famous as the son-in-law of professional wrestler Rikidozan (born Kim Shin-rak), was a childhood friend of Kim Jong-il and has been the red-boned head of the North Korean sports world for at least 30 years.

North Korea said of the doping rumors that “our athletes take traditional Korean medicine containing musk, and steroids came into their bodies by accident during medical treatment.” The Associated Press has reported that “this incident is the biggest doping scandal at a major tournament since Maradona was ejected from the 1994 World Cup in the United States.”