Pubdate: Mon, 22 Jan 2001
Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA)
Copyright: 2001 San Francisco Chronicle
Contact:  901 Mission St., San Francisco CA 94103
Author: Eric Geiger, Chronicle Foreign Service


Top Soccer Coach's Disclosure Rouses Germans From Complacency About Cocaine

Munich -- To many Germans, the United States is a place where sniffing 
cocaine is as commonplace as swigging beer. But the recent revelation that 
a prominent German soccer coach tested positive for the drug has 
spotlighted the grim fact that Germany, too, is swamped with cocaine, and 
that the number of users is soaring.

Authorities estimate that more than 1 million Germans of all ages and all 
walks of life have had recent experience with cocaine -- and more than a 
third of them are regular users. Some drug experts put that figure much higher.

"Cocaine addiction actually is gripping all segments of society, those at 
the top as well as those at the bottom," said Hans Joachim Drews, spokesman 
for the Drug Therapy Center in Berlin. "And included in the group also are 
many of our middle class, such as civil servants, small shop owners and 
white-collar workers."

The spreading cocaine habit is taking a heavy toll. Last year, 1,182 
persons across the country died from drug-related causes. Recently, a 
32-year-old homeless man died from an overdose of cocaine and other drugs 
at a police station in Saarbruecken.

But neither the growing death toll nor the many cocaine scandals involving 
show-business figures has prompted Germans to confront the issue of cocaine 
in a country that prides itself on its law-and-order image. It took 
Christoph Daum, Germany's immensely popular soccer coach, to shake up the 
national complacency.

On Jan. 12, Daum told a press conference carried live on both major German 
TV networks that he had used cocaine occasionally to ease the pain of a hip 
ailment. The official Institute of Forensic Medicine in Cologne confirmed 
that he had tested positive for cocaine in a recent drug test.

Prosecutors are formally investigating the case, although no charges have 
been brought against Daum, who was to become chief coach of the national 
soccer team this summer. But the shock waves are still reverberating.

"Germany after Daum -- is the whole country mired in a drug swamp?" asked 
the mass-circulation Bild am Sontag. The article was headlined: "German 
Drug Republic," a play on the name of the former East Germany-German 
Democratic Republic.

Germany's problem is widely seen as fallout from America's tough war on drugs.

According to drug experts, Germany has been flooded with cocaine since the 
U.S. government's crackdown intensified in the late 1980s and early '90s, 
forcing South American traffickers to look for new markets.

Last year alone, police seized 4,000 pounds of cocaine -- known 
colloquially as schnee ("snow") -- as well as 1,600 pounds of heroin, but 
that is only a fraction of the drugs that get through, senior officials said.

The increase in supply has pushed prices down to about $50 a gram and made 
cocaine "a common street drug," according to Ruediger Engler, chief of the 
Berlin police's anti-narcotics squad.

Along with low price and ready availability, sociologists and psychologists 
cite the pressures of a highly competitive society.

Cocaine "seems the perfect drug in this quasi-game-show society, which 
requires everybody to be in top form, highly efficient and very 
successful," said Wolfgang Gotz, chief of the Kokon drug therapy center in 

"But nobody talks about the tragic results from the drug's use -- the 
psychic addiction it engenders and the threat of suicide it evokes."

Sociologist Gunther Amendt said cocaine has become "the fuel for the 
so-called new economy, the World Wide Web society."

"The excessive demands on our imagination, our emotions and our sense of 
responsibilities have boosted the widespread craving for such dangerous 
stimulants as cocaine as a means to supposedly help restore a balanced 
personality," he said.

Munich has emerged as a major testing ground for a government effort to 
curtail drug use. Law-enforcement officials are pursuing even "small fry" 
dealers and consumers.

The zero-tolerance policy has produced a string of arrests and convictions. 
For first-time offenders, possession of one gram of cocaine can trigger a 
six-month suspended prison term and automatic loss of a driver's license. 
Small-time dealers are offered lenient penalties in exchange for 
information about customers and suppliers.

"It's a long and tough road, but there are encouraging signs it will pay 
off," said a drug investigator who asked not to be named.

According to German investigators, 65 percent of the cocaine reaching this 
country comes from Colombia, 26 percent from Peru and 9 percent from Bolivia.

Smuggling routes change frequently. While much of the German-bound cocaine 
once was transported by ship from Brazil to Portugal and Spain, the bulk of 
the shipments now appear to be going to Scandinavia. From there, the drugs 
are turned over to traffickers -- chiefly Russian and East European crime 
groups --

that smuggle it by air to Germany and other West European countries.

Other routes lead via the Mediterranean and the Black Sea to Romania, then 
overland to the heart of Europe via Austria. Some shipments go to Albania, 
where local gangs tied to East European crime syndicates transport the 
drugs across the Adriatic to Italy. From there, according to Munich police, 
they are concealed inside ordinary items and transported by car across the 
Alps for sale in Germany.

"So far the smugglers have in most cases been outwitting us," shrugged a 
drug investigator in Munich. "They always come up with new methods, and 
they are often cunningly clever."
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