It’s important to note that steroids were originally discovered in the testicles. Ancient civilizations knew that male sexual characteristics were linked to the contents of the testicles. This knowledge was further developed by Berthold, who conducted experiments on roosters in 1849. He found that removing their testes caused them to lose most of their male characteristics, including sexual function. Berthold also discovered that transplanting testicles to the abdomen had no effect on sexual function.
In 1929, scientists attempted to extract a powerful substance from bull testicles, and in 1935, a more purified form of this extract was obtained. A year later, Testosterone was synthesized by Ruzicka, becoming the first anabolic steroid ever created. Testosterone was used in an experiment in 1936, which showed that castrated animals increased their body weight when given Testosterone. Similar experiments were then carried out on humans, demonstrating the substance’s ability to modify the human body in various ways.
Between 1948 and 1954, pharmaceutical companies like Searle and Ciba synthesized over a thousand different Testosterone derivatives and analogues, marking the beginning of the modern history of anabolic steroids.
Back in 1954, the US national team’s physician, John Ziegler, witnessed the Soviet weightlifters dominate the World Weightlifting Championships in Vienna, Austria. Rumor has it that while getting drunk with the Soviet team’s doctor, Ziegler learned that the Russian weightlifters had been using Testosterone injections for months as part of their training program. Whether true or not, this sparked the US team’s efforts to use the same kind of enhancement. Ziegler began giving Testosterone to his weightlifters and worked with Ciba to create a new substance with even better strength enhancing effects. This led to the creation of Dianabol, which became a staple in professional weightlifter’s training programs. As physicians around the US began to research steroids, early studies showed that anabolic steroids offered no athletic benefit and had several flaws.
One of the main issues with early studies on anabolic steroids was that the dosages used were often too low to produce any significant effects. Additionally, these studies were not typically double-blind or randomized, meaning that both the scientists and the subjects knew whether they were receiving the real medication or a placebo. Furthermore, nutrition and exercise were not standardized in these studies. Despite these flaws, anabolic steroids were initially believed to be useful for enhancing athletic performance. However, after the Physicians Desk Reference claimed otherwise, the International Olympic Council and other major sporting organizations began banning their use.
The early studies on anabolic steroids suffered from several flaws, including low dosages, lack of double-blind or randomized protocols, and uncontrolled nutrition and exercise. Despite these issues, anabolic steroids were initially thought to be effective for enhancing athletic performance. However, after the Physicians Desk Reference claimed otherwise, the International Olympic Council and other major sporting organizations began banning their use. Interestingly, just before the ban on steroids in the Olympics, the communist Germany Democratic Republic began synthesizing new anabolic steroids for their athletes, leading to their consistent domination of various sports.
- The early studies on anabolic steroids were plagued by several problems, such as low dosages, lack of double-blind or randomized protocols, and uncontrolled nutrition and exercise. Despite these issues, anabolic steroids were initially believed to be effective for enhancing athletic performance. However, after the Physicians Desk Reference claimed otherwise, the International Olympic Council and other major sporting organizations began banning their use. Interestingly, just before the ban on steroids in the Olympics, the communist Germany Democratic Republic began synthesizing new anabolic steroids for their athletes, leading to their consistent domination of various sports. The IOC responded by implementing a drug-testing program based on detecting excessive levels of Testosterone in athletes.
The doctors in GDR were already ahead of the game, as they had created a form of Testosterone that left the body quickly, making it impossible to detect during drug tests. They even developed a protocol that allowed their athletes to continue using steroids, only stopping briefly to pass the test. Jenapharm, the German firm supplying steroids to the government, also created an Epitestosterone to bring the ratio back to normal without discontinuing steroid use. These methods were so advanced that they went undetected for years, until the collapse of the U.R.S.S. in 1989. The scandal that followed in the early 1990s helped give anabolic steroids the bad reputation they still have today. Ironically, it was also during this time that anabolic steroids were discovered to be useful in improving survival rates for AIDS and cancer patients, as loss of lean body mass was associated with high mortality rates.
Before 1988, steroids in the US were only available with a prescription, as determined by the FDA. The FDA is responsible for classifying drugs as either over-the-counter or prescription-only. During this time, steroids could only be obtained through a physician’s prescription, even though they were not yet considered controlled substances.
Controlled substances are subject to stricter regulations compared to uncontrolled prescription drugs. For instance, contact lenses can only be legally obtained with a prescription, but they are not considered controlled substances. The increased control over steroids led to a more thorough examination of doctors who prescribed them, resulting in harsher penalties for any improper dispensing.
In 1988, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act introduced a new prescription category for steroids, imposing severe penalties for their illegal sale or possession with intent to distribute. This meant that possessing or distributing steroids became a felony offense. Subsequently, the United States Congress amended the Controlled Substances Act in 1990, adding steroids as a controlled substance under “Schedule III” classification. This placed steroids in the same category as drugs like amphetamines, methamphetamines, and opium, carrying similar penalties for buying or selling them.
It is worth noting that the American Medical Association, the FDA, the DEA, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse did not support this legislation and classification. In fact, they all protested against it.
In the early 2000s, the spotlight once again fell on steroids with the emergence of “prohormones,” a creation of Patrick Arnold that hit the market. This marked the beginning of a more prominent era in the history of steroids in baseball, as Major League Baseball had yet to implement a steroid testing program. While steroids occasionally made headlines when athletes tested positive or admitted to using them, they strangely faded from the media’s attention for the next decade.
Fast forward to the present, and it’s clear that steroid use is far from diminishing. A survey conducted among 12th graders in 2000 revealed that 2.5% had tried steroids at least once in their lives. By 2004, that number had risen to 3.4%. Furthermore, a recent internet study confirmed that anabolic steroid usage remains prevalent among weightlifters and bodybuilders, with no signs of it slowing down in the world of athletics.
Moreover, the legitimate use of anabolic steroids for various medical conditions continues to persist. From addressing andropause or menopause to aiding in the recovery of burn victims, improving the quality of life for AIDS patients, combating breast cancer, and preventing osteoporosis, the medical community recognizes the valuable role that anabolic steroids can play.
The story of anabolic steroids is not a tale that has already been told and concluded, but rather an ongoing narrative that is being written every day by a diverse group of individuals including scientists, lawmakers, doctors, and athletes ranging from bodybuilders to champions.