Growing up with anabolic agents

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Schänzer (65) is one of the most renowned anti-doping researchers worldwide. Most importantly, he has done ground-breaking work in the study of anabolic steroids (anabolic agents), in which he provided the scientific basis for their detection. He has worked at the Institute of Biochemistry since 1979 and was crucially responsible in developing the Cologne Laboratory up to 1995 to a leading doping control laboratory worldwide. He has participated in the clarification of prominent doping cases and the introduction of new methods of detection. Wilhelm Schänzer goes into retirement in the summer of this year.

He has been actively employed in the service of science and anti-doping research at the German Sport University in Cologne for 38 years. After his high school graduation in 1972 in Duisburg, he began studying sport science at the German Sport University in Cologne during the summer term in 1973, followed several terms later by a parallel course in teacher training for chemistry. The native lower Rhinelander did his PhD in Biochemistry from 1979 to 1984 under Professor Manfred Donike, the head of the department at that time. After Professor Donike‘s sudden death in 1995, Dr. Schänzer initially provisionally took over the department in a supervisory capacity. In the same year, he qualified as a university lecturer in Biochemistry. Exactly 20 years ago, in the summer of 1997, he was then officially appointed as head of this renowned anti-doping laboratory. In addition to the anti-doping laboratory in Kreischa near Dresden, the Cologne anti-doping laboratory is the only worldwide approved anti-doping laboratory accredited by (WADA) for doping analysis in Germany and one of the leading institutions in the fight against doping worldwide.

Prof. Schänzer’s first successes in the field of doping analysis were that he provided the scientific basis for detecting anabolic agents. In this context he played a significant part in the conviction of the doping transgressor Ben Johnson in 1988. The anabolic steroid group of substances defined Prof. Schänzer‘s career: The methods of detection, his developments for these and his synthesis of steroid metabolites were helpful for laboratories worldwide.

Prof. Schänzer will continue to provide advice and support for the Institute in the future; in particular, he wants to dedicate himself to the newest analytical equipment. “On the other hand, I am pleased to be able to pass on the responsibility to others. The Laboratory, in part with these analyses but above all with these positive findings, has taken a leading position in the world. One has learned to live with this pressure, which does not allow the smallest mistake, although it is a strain “, says Prof Schänzer. His designated successor is Prof. Dr. Mario Thevis, who has worked together with Prof. Schänzer for the last 20 years. Prof Thevis is Vice-President for Research and Promotion of Young Scientists at the German Sport University in Cologne and speaker for the Centre for Preventative Doping Research.


The Institute for Biochemistry at the German Sport University in Cologne is one of the oldest doping laboratories in the world. Its founder and first head of Institute was Prof Manfred Donike. He was in charge of the Institute from 1977 to 1995. The Institute is today recognised as accredited by the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA. Key focal points of work at the Institute are research in preventive doping, research in the field of sport nutrition and doping analytics. About 16.000 human and 3.000 horse doping samples are analysed at the Institute each year. The Institute has a large selection of the newest analytical technological equipment at its disposal and regularly contributes – particularly through its many years of experience in the field of mass spectrometry – cutting-edge results in the development of doping analytics.

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