The German saga continues
The German federation held a press conference at the Nebelhorn Trophy, and I've translated the Yahoo article about it. See the Blazing Blades blog for Oct. 10.
(Or see below.)
I have no idea how this quagmire will be resolved, but at least it seems that the federation now has some reasonable leadership!
Steuer Case Burdens Crisis-Shaken DEU
Sunday, Oct. 1, 2006
Oberstdorf (dpa) – Legal actions concerning the Stasi-encumbered coach Ingo Steuer will occupy the financially strapped German Skating Union (DEU) for the entire winter at considerable cost.
“It could even take years in court; it could almost result in a Bosman ruling,”said the new DEU president, Dieter Hillebrand, during the disappointing (from a German standpoint) Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf. [See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bosman_ruling for info on the Bosman ruling.] Furthermore, Steuer has a claim on the table that the DEU owes him a bonus payment on the order of 80,000 Euros for his success with European silver-medalists, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy.
“The bonus claim appears too high to me, but we won't get out of it,” commented Hillebrand soberly. The retired chief of police of Upper Bavaria took over the federation, which was on the brink of insolvency, in July. Instead of concerning himself with the athletic future of the one-time German jewel among sports, he's dealing exclusively with the restructuring of the federation and with Steuer. The former world champion and his pair have indicated their intention to go to court before every competition to sue for the pair's right to have their coach with them. The DEU will not nominate Steuer for any future event and will simply wait for the legal decisions.
“There could be a rethinking in all of German sport with regards to the autonomy of the federations. Unfortunately, it's happening on the back of the DEU,” said Hillebrand, who actually expects an appeal from the other side. Despite the legal battles, Hillebrand absolutely has understanding for the situation of the Chemnitzers: “We don't have a bad relationship with Steuer or his pair; we can understand their position.”
The unending saga is getting increasingly less understanding from others, who, because of the financially precarious situation, are no longer getting support for training courses. The DEU is now hoping to at least get federal support for coaching. “We need full-time skilled personnel to get this competitive sport onto a more solid footing,” said DEU sports director Udo Doensdorf, who would abolish the old bonus system for coaches.
The plan for a potentially national “next generation” development coach is long term. The short term looks bleak: all elite athletes are fighting injuries and illness, for instance, Stefan Lindemann (viral infection) and the ice dance siblings Beier, who haven't been on the ice in months due to tendon problems. Even Savchenko/Szolkowy, in light of the extreme stress, can hardly be relied upon to medal internationally.
The only good news is that the Junior World Championships in February can be held in Oberstdorf despite great problems and the finances are slowly improving. The DEU sold its headquarters in Munich to the German Hockey Federation and is moving into the offices of the German Speed Skating Federation (DESG). In the future, the executive director of the DESG, Michael Talermann, will also deal with the interests of the DEU. “That'll be a great help; then I'll be able to concentrate on athletic issues,” said Doensdorf.
Last edited by Anke G; 10-11-2006 at 06:23 PM.
Reason: Edited to add text of translation.
I feel sorry for the German federation -- no matter what they do, it seems to be wrong.
Although, if the German federation needs money, can't they sell the rights to this story for someone who wants a good soap opera plot?
In my heart, I'm actually Canadian....
I've been thinking for years that it's a real shame that a federation (or, more accurately, federations, plural) that has had so much success in skating over the years has degenerated into such a mess. It's amazing that they're having even the limited success that they have now.
Can someone remind me exactly what Steuer did to be put on trial?
First of all, Steuer had "ties" with Stasi (East Germany's secret police). In and of itself, that's not a crime; in fact, almost all elite athletes had ties to it in one way or another. However, Steuer's collaboration with Stasi appears to have been pretty deep. After unification, Steuer hid his ties with Stasi; to be fair to him, admitting to this ties would have ended his career right there and then. However, the truth of the matter is that he did lie, and that Germany does have national laws against that kind of behavior. I am sure that the information about Steuer's Stasi past surfaced precisely when he started having such great success as a coach because some one or some ones were politically or otherwise interested in destroying his career. Be is as it may, Steuer should have at least owned up to his past when it caught up with him; instead, he continues to jeopardise the careers of his students (and girlfriend Alyona) for the sake of his own behind! German federation has offered S&S the best pair coaches in the world, even offered to pay for them living in Chicago to train with Vasiliev, but Alyona is choosing to sacrifice her own and Robin's careers to stand by her boyfriend.
Ptichka gave a good summary of Steuer's problem. And to be precise, Steuer is not on trial. He is the one going to court. He is suing the federation (or the Olympic committee in the case of Turin) to get the right to be at the boards for Aliona and Robin when they compete. German laws about former Stasi informants do not allow them to represent the nation or be paid by public monies. The federation is not nominating him to get credentials at said competitions.
Originally Posted by Jasper
So far, Steuer is winning, but there are greater implications about the autonomy of sport federations to choose who represents them, and, of course, there are issues about the implementation of the laws about former Stasi informants. There will probably be appeals along the way, and I wouldn't be surprised if eventually there was a wider political discussion of the issues. It would be nice if they got it resolved in the next year or two so that Aliona and Robin can focus on the next Olympics.
Last edited by Anke G; 10-11-2006 at 06:31 PM.
Reason: Added second paragraph.