Testosterone, Dianabol, Winstrol, Deca Durabolin, Anavar and Anadrol are some of the most popular anabolic steroids currently used by athletes and bodybuilders today. Few people outside the steroid subculture realize that these anabolic drugs have been available for over fifty years.
Many sports fans seem to be under the impression that widespread steroid use in sports is only a relatively recent phenomena. They are sorely mistaken. The truth is athletes have been experimenting with these drugs practically from the moment they became commercially available. The “secret” of steroids has been well-known among insiders for some time.
The First Injectable Anabolic Steroid Product
The testes have been known to be responsible for male-typical characteristics and behaviors since ancient times but it was not until 1849 that scientists learned how this happened. German scientist Arnold Adolf Berthold discovered that the testes influenced masculine behavior by secreting an unknown substance into the bloodstream.
A few decades later, French physiologist Charles-Édouard Brown-Séquard, the father of modern-day hormone research, sought to capture this essence of masculinity with a concentrated extract derived from guinea pig and dog testicles. He claimed that injecting the extract would increase physical strength and intellectual ability in humans.
The First Athlete to Use Steroids
Athletes looking for an edge have often looked to science as a means to improve their athletic abilities. Brown-Séquard’s hormone research intrigued future Major League Baseball pitcher and Hall of Famer “Pud” Galvin. Galvin wondered if injections of the Brown-Séquard Elixir would enhance baseball performance.
Since the extract undoubtedly contained trace amounts of as-of-yet-unidentified androgenic steroids, Galvin became the first known athlete to inject a steroid-based product when he became a regular user of the rejuvenating Brown-Sequard Elixir. The year was 1889. Galvin’s use of “steroids” preceded the recent steroids in baseball scandal by over 100 years.
Brown-Séquard’s research inspired several scientists to build on his research with testicular extracts.
Steroids Can Enhance Athletic Performance
A few years after “Pud” Galvin became baseball’s first “steroid user”, Austrian physiologist Oskar Zoth hypothesized that injections of steroid-based testicular extracts could enhance athletic performance.
Zoth published an 1896 paper proposing further research on performance be conducted with athletes. The idea that some mysterious substance in animal testicles could offer performance-enhancing benefits in athletes has been firmly planted in the research community ever since.
The next two decades saw scientists repeatedly confirm the androgenic effects of various testicular extracts.
In 1927, University of Chicago chemistry professor Fred Koch and research assistant Lemuel McGee derived 20 mg of a substance from 40 pounds of bovine testicles obtained from the Chicago Stockyards. The testicular extract re-masculinized castrated roosters, pigs and rats.
Still, the chemical structures of powerful androgens such as testosterone had not yet been elucidated and identified.
The Decade of Sex Hormones
Steroid hormone research exploded in the 1930s. The decade started off with the milestone discovery involving the isolation of the first androgenic hormone in 1931 by German biochemist Adolf Butenandt.
The discovery generated considerable excitement in the scientific community but researchers believed that a much more powerful anabolic-androgenic steroid hormone still existed. The race was on!
The “decade of sex hormones” would open a Pandora’s box with a far-reaching impact of sport and medicine.
The Horsemen of the Steroid Revolution
Three powerful pharmaceutical companies were highly involved in the rush to developed anabolic steroids. Not surprisingly, these three companies had a long and lasting effect on the history and development of anabolic steroids that continues until the present.
The development of steroids was big business even in the 1930s. Major pharmaceutical companies such as Organon, Schering and Ciba saw considerable potential in this emerging market. It is little surprise that the companies that launched the steroid revolution continue to be strongly associated with anabolic steroids among modern-day athletes.
The chemists working for these big pharma companies have changed the world perhaps not in ways that they could have imagined. They would become “steroid gods” in the annals of sports history. Athletes would soon make use of their creations during the next 75 years!
The Discovery and Identification of Testosterone
Organon, Schering and Ciba rushed to isolate and synthesize the powerful hormones contained in testicular extracts.
Karoly David and Ernst Laqueur of Organon (Netherlands) were the first pharmaceutical team to isolate and identify the chemical structure of testosterone when they isolated 10 mg from 100 kg of bull testicles. The discovery of testosterone was first announced in the classic paper entitled “On Crystalline Male Hormone from Testes (Testosterone): More Active Than Androsterone Preparations from Urine or Cholesterol” on May 27, 1935.
At this point, large quantities of animal testicles were required to extract testosterone which made the use of testosterone impractical for commercial use. However, competing research teams were only months away from publishing more efficient methods of synthesizing testosterone.
The Synthesis of Testosterone and the Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Schering and Ciba independently discovered less expensive methods of synthesizing testosterone in August 1935.
German biochemist Adolf Butenandt and G. Hanisch of Schering (Germany) published a paper entitled “On Testosterone Conversion of Dehydroandrosterone in Androstenediol and Testosterone: A Method for Preparing Testosterone from Cholesterol” on August 24, 1935.
Croatian organic chemist Leopold Ružička and German chemist Alfred Wettstein of Ciba (Switzerland) published the paper entitled “On the Artificial Preparation of the Testicular Hormone Testosterone (Androsten-3-one-17-ol)” on August 31, 1935.
This steroid research was deemed so important that the lead researchers from the Schering and Ciba teams ultimately shared the 1939 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their remarkable work on anabolic-androgenic steroid hormones.
The Golden Age of Anabolic Steroid Research
The discovery of synthetic methods of preparing the anabolic-androgenic steroid known as testosterone was a major breakthrough in the pharmaceutical world allowing steroid hormone research to flourish.
This is when the golden age of anabolic steroid research (from 1935 to 1965) truly began.
Nobel Prize winner Ružička didn’t waste any time; he synthesized some pretty cool steroids back in 1935 including methyltestosterone, mestanolone and methandriol.
By 1937, the injectable anabolic steroid testosterone propionate and the oral steroid methyltestosterone were available in sufficient quantities to be used in human clinical research trials.
Leopold Ružička also synthesized androstenedione which, several decades later, became one of the most infamous steroids in the history of steroids in baseball. (Illinois chemist Patrick Arnold introduced androstenedione into the dietary supplement market in the United States in 1995 and it found its way into the controversy surrounding home run slugger Mark McGwire and steroids.)
Testosterone Increases Muscle Mass
Charles Kochakian, a synthetic steroid pioneer, made a milestone discovery in the history of steroids. Kochakian’s animal research with testosterone acetate proved that testosterone was indeed an anabolic hormone in 1936. Kochakian’s research group was the first to scientifically document a connection between testosterone and increased muscle mass.
In 1938, Allan Kenyon’s research group confirmed that the anabolic muscle effects of testosterone propionate occurred in human subjects as well during steroid experiments on eunuchoidal boys, men and women.
The Use of Anabolic Steroids in World War II
Kochakian participated in a medical conference exploring methods to speed the healing process in injured American soldiers returning from combat during World War II. Kochakian promoted the muscle-building effects of testosterone for the post-surgical care of these soldiers.
There has been no evidence that steroids were ever used to enhance performance of soldiers on the battlefield.
Nazi Soldiers and Anabolic Steroids
The claim that German soldiers were injected with testosterone in World War II has often been repeated but Professor of Germanic Studies John Hoberman believes the use of steroid by Nazi soldiers is a myth. There has been no evidence in the German literature to support the use of anabolic steroids by soldiers in Nazi Germany.
Similarly, the rumor that German athletes used testosterone as an ergogenic aid during the 1936 Berlin Olympics is unsupported by literature published during this period.
Russell Marker Makes Steroid Use Affordable
The most significant discovery to facilitate the commercialization of pharmaceutical sex hormones was made by Pennsylvania State chemistry professor Russell Marker.
Ružicka and Butenandt may have won the Nobel Prize for their synthesis of testosterone but Marker made anabolic steroids a mass market phenomenon.
The cost of testosterone, progesterone and other important steroids fell dramatically in the 1940s when Marker recognized that the raw materials for steroid synthesis could be obtained from the naturally-occurring plant steroid diosgenin instead of the much more expensive method of converting cholesterol that existed at the time.
He developed a three-step chemical process by which diosgenin could be converted to progesterone. It became known as the Marker Degradation. Now, he only needed to find an inexpensive plant source of diosgenin.
The Indiana Jones of the Steroid Industry
In January 1942, the eccentric Marker became the Indiana Jones of the steroid industry when he left the ivory tower at Pennsylvania State College to explore the jungles of Mexico. He organized an expedition exploring the area surronding the city of Orizaba in the State of Veracruz.
Marker succeeded in locating the diosgenin-containing variety of Mexican wild yam known as the “cabeza de negro” (dioscorea mexicana). This variety of wild yam reached up to 100 kilograms in size.
Marker’s team continued searching for richer sources of plant steroids and eventually found the “barbasco” variety of wild yam (dioscorea composita) which contained four times the amount of diosgenin as the “cabeza de negro”.
The Mexican Steroid Industry Becomes International Player in Steroid Trade
The pharmaceutical company Parke-Davis funded Marker’s 1942 expedition to Mexico but rejected proposals to commercialize the discovery. The president of Parke-Davis didn’t consider Mexico a reliable investment given its instability and anti-American sentiment in the midst of World War II.
Marker resigned from Parke-Davis in 1943. He shopped his discovery to other American pharmaceutical houses which all rejected his proposal.
So, in 1944, Marker founded Syntex SA in Mexico City, with investments by the Mexican company Laboratorios Hormona SA, for the commercial production of steroid hormones.
The Mexican steroid industry, including “Syntex” and several other steroid companies, produced the bulk of sex hormones sold in the United States and became an international player in the field.
The price of anabolic steroids fell drastically setting the stage for their increased use in sport and society.
The Popularization of Testosterone Among West Coast Bodybuilders
In 1945, writer Paul de Kruif celebrated the anabolic properties of testosterone, testosterone propionate and methyltestosterone in the book entitled “The Male Hormone”. This widely-read book was rumored to have helped popularize the potential of testosterone (and future anabolic steroids) to increase muscle mass among West Coast bodybuilders in the late 1940s and early 1950s. This was only the beginning of bodybuilding’s fascination with anabolic steroids.
The bodybuilding community as a whole would soon start widely experimenting with anabolic steroids in the 1950s and become pioneers in steroid use. They would remain on the cutting edge of performance-enhancement drugs well into the next century.
IFBB Mr. Olympia Larry Scott admitted that he, and practically all of the top competitive bodybuilders, were also using anabolic steroids by 1960.
S.D. Searle Pharmaceuticals Creates One Thousand Different Anabolic Steroids in Laboratory
Searle initiated an unprecedented effort in steroid research to discover superior synthetic steroid hormones for use in medicine. Between 1948 and 1955, chemists at Searle had synthesized more than a thousand different testosterone derivatives and analogues with the specific goal of creating an orally active anabolic steroid with minimal androgenic side effects. Searle wanted to create steroids that avoided any virilizing effects.
Nilevar Becomes First Synthetic Oral Anabolic Steroid Approved by FDA (1956)
Of the thousand potential steroid profiles created by Searle during this period, Nilevar (norethandrolone) was the winning candidate selected for commercialization. Searle chemist Frank Colton synthesized norethandrolone in 1953.
Norethandrolone became the first orally-active, synthetic anabolic steroid when it was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the brand name Nilevar in 1956. The only other orally-active androgen available at the time was methyltestosterone which was simply a 17?-methylated version of testosterone to increase its oral bioavailability.
Bodybuilding Champion Bill Pearl Uses Nilevar
In 1958, West Coast bodybuilder and Mr. Universe champion Bill Pearl was one of the first bodybuilders to experiment with the new anabolic steroid created by Searle. Pearl did a 12-week cycle using 30 mg of Nilevar and increased his bodyweight by 25 lbs from 225 to 250 lbs.
Bill Pearl openly admitted using anabolic steroids in preparation for the 1961 National Amateur BodybBuilders Association (NABBA) Mr. Universe contest. He revealed that steroid use was no longer an underground practice among top bodybuilders corroborating Mr. Olympia Larry Scott’s assessment of the steroid scene in bodybuilding.
Pharmaceutical Companies Go Nuts Creating Anabolic Steroids
G.D. Searle was not the only pharmaceutical company to spend massive resources on developing new synthetic anabolic steroids. Several major pharmaceutical companies went absolutely nuts creating anabolic steroids during the 1950s and the early 1960s.
Between 1950 and 1965, practically all of the popular steroids currently used today had been developed. These included but are not limited to: Dianabol, Anadrol, Anavar, Winstrol, Halotestin, Equipoise, Durabolin, Deca Durabolin, Primobolan, Oral Turinabol, Masteron, Proviron and Trenbolone Acetate.
Even some of the more esoteric steroids to be used by future bodybuilders were developed during this period such as furazabol, Esiclene (formebolone), Oranabol (oxymesterone), Cheque Drops (mibolerone), Anatrofin (stenbolone) and Orabolin.
Organon Firmly Establishes Its Place in Steroid History
Organon created some incredibly popular injectable steroids during this period many of which are still widely used by bodybuilders and athletes. Organon will be forever linked to anabolic steroids in their minds due to the release of Durabolin and especially Deca Durabolin.
Organon released Durabolin (nandrolone phenylpropionate) in 1957 which became hugely popular. Its popularity was soon eclipsed when Organon released Deca Durabolin in 1962 over a decade after nandrolone decanoate was first created.
Deca Durabolin ultimately became one of the all-time most popular steroids in the history of performance-enhancement along with Dianabol, Anadrol, Anavar and Winstrol.
Syntex Continues Its Steroid Innovation
Russell Marker left his mark on the steroid industry with the founding of Syntex. Marker’s successors at Syntex continued its steroid research and released Anadrol (oxymetholone) in 1959 after it was synthesized by Howard Ringold and George Rosenkranz. Rosenkranz and Ringold had created Masteron (drostanolone acetate) for Syntex a couple of years earlier.
Many of Ringold’s creations were never commercially introduced by Syntex. However, at least one of his shelved anabolic steroid products – methyldrostanolone or methasteron – would become marketed as a widely successful “dietary supplement” named “Superdrol” during the era of prohormone supplement ushered in by the Dietary Health and Supplement Education Act of 1994.
Not only did Syntex create Anadrol, it provided the inspiration for Winthrop Laboratories to create stanozolol. Winthrop chemist was able to synthesize stanozolol from oxymetholone in 1959. Stanozolol was marketed as Winstrol and Winstrol Depot in the U.S. In 1962.
Anabolic Steroid Discoveries That Ended Up as “Dietary Supplements” Fifty Years Later
While Searle synthesized over a thousand anabolic steroids in the laboratory during this period, they unfortunately only published limited results of their research. Other major pharmaceutical companies, such as Synex, did not hesitate to publish many more of their steroid discoveries even though they only released a handful of steroids as commercially-available drugs.
These published steroid discoveries were long forgotten until supplement companies started pouring over the research looking for promising prohormones, synthetic steroids and prosteroidal products to be released as “dietary supplements” during the late 1990s and 2000s DSHEA regulatory environment.
Julius Vida’s Guide for Renegade Steroid Chemists
Fortunately, Julius Vida compiled the published results of some 650 anabolic-androgenic steroids discovered through 1967 in his seminal 1969 textbook “Androgens and Anabolic Agents: Chemistry and Pharmacology”. This later become an invaluable reference guide, not only for sports nutrition companies, but also for renegade chemists looking for undetectable designer steroids. It became a goldmine of information for supplement “entrepreneurs” during the late 1990s.
Designer Steroids Used by Future Athletes
Some of the anabolic steroids discovered during this period were later re-introduced, not as pharmaceuticals and not as “dietary supplements”, but as undetectable designer steroids used to evade anti-doping protocols in sports.
For example, Patrick Arnold used norbolothone, developed in 1963 by Wyeth, to help some athletes accomplish this goal. Methyltrienolone is another such steroid that was undetectable at one point in sports.
Dianabol – The Most Popular Anabolic Steroid Ever
The use of anabolic steroids by bodybuilders rapidly increased during the late 1950s. West Coast bodybuilders experimented with the steroids commercially available in the United States e.g. testosterone propionate, methyltestosterone and Nilevar. However, it wasn’t until Ciba Pharmaceuticals introduced Dianabol in 1958 that steroid use quickly went mainstream in bodybuilding and weightlifting before gradually spreading to other strength sports and eventually to all competitive sports.
As we have seen, many new oral and injectable anabolic steroids made it to the marketplace around this time in the late 1950s and early 1960s but it was Dianabol that clearly emerged as the steroid of choice among American bodybuilders and athletes.
While Dianabol would have eventually found its way into sports, there are certain individuals who helped facilitate the adoption of steroids in general, and Dianabol in particular, by American athletes. John Ziegler would probably be considered at the top of the list.
Dr. John Ziegler and the York Barbell Club
Physician John Ziegler was an avid weightlifter who became fascinated with the use of anabolic steroids to increase muscle mass and performance. In the early 1950s, he befriended bodybuilder John Grimek and other weightlifters associated with Bob Hoffman’s York Barbell Club. The United States weightlifting team trained in York, Pennsylvania and Ziegler soon became the team physician.
Hoffman suspected that Russian weightlifters were using steroids as early as 1952. At the 1954 World Championships in Vienna, Ziegler learned from a Russian coach that lifters on the Russian team were using testosterone as part of their training preparations.
Ziegler’s Association with Ciba Pharmaceuticals
Ziegler conveniently worked part-time at Ciba Pharmaceuticals laboratory in Summit, New Jersey during this time. Ciba generously provided Ziegler with a supply of testosterone propionate to be used for “research purposes”.
In 1954, Ziegler provided steroids to several weightlifters at York most notably Mr. America and Mr. Universe John Grimek. He injected Grimek, Jim Park and Yaz Kuzahara with testosterone propionate during the early days of steroid experimentation at York Barbell Club.
Ciba Pharmaceuticals Introduces Dianabol
Many bodybuilding websites erroneously credit John Ziegler with the discovery of Dianabol (methandrostenolone). While Ziegler worked at the Ciba lab and had access to the steroids developed by Ciba chemists, he did not synthesize Dianabol.
In actuality, a team of European researchers working for Ciba Pharmaceuticals in Switzerland first synthesized Dianabol in 1955. This team included several well-known steroid research pioneers including German chemist Alfred Wettstein who was on the Ciba team that first synthesized testosterone in 1935.
Steroid chemists Ernst Vischer, Alfred Hunger, Charles Meystre and Ludwig Ehmann were also members of the illustrious steroid research group who contributed to the revolutionary discovery of Dianabol while working for Ciba Pharmaceuticals in Switzerland.
Ciba Asks John Ziegler to Give Dianabol to Weightlifters
Ciba Pharmaceuticals in New Jersey purportedly asked Dr. John Ziegler to administer the newly developed Dianabol to Olympic weightlifters training at York Barbell in late 1959.
Dr. Ziegler prescribed 10 mg of Dianabol per day to John Grimek, Bill March, Tony Garcy and Louis Riecke in the spring and fall of 1960.
1960 Rome Olympics and Dianabol
Ziegler prescribed Dianabol to the entire U.S. Weightlifting team in preparation for the 1960 Rome Olympics. It wasn’t long before Schultz’ Drug Store in York, Pennsylvania was filling prescriptions for dozens of athletes from York Barbell Club as well as gyms around the country.
Alvin Roy – Founding Father of Modern Strength and Conditioning Profession
While John Ziegler is frequently credited as being the “father of steroids” and is undoubtedly one of the most notable individuals to facilitate the spread of steroids in sport, the role of strength and conditioning coach Alvin Roy is often overlooked.
Alvin Roy had watched and learned from the steroid experiments taking place at York Barbell throughout the 1950s.
He first met Bob Hoffman at the 1945 Weightlifting World Championships. Roy was enlisted in the Army’s 94th Infantry having fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He was assigned to look after the U.S. Weightlifting Team in post-war Paris for five weeks. Roy developed a close friendship with Bob Hoffman and several Olympic lifters during this time.
Alvin Roy was bitten by the “barbell bug” and opened his own gym in Baton Rouge, Louisiana upon his return to the United States in 1947.
Roy stayed in close contact with the guys at York Barbell and visited them often. He became the official trainer for the U.S. Olympic Weightlifting team at the 1952 Olympics.
Alvin Roy Learns About Dianabol at York Barbell
Alvin Roy kept close association with York Barbell and continued to collaborate with York fixtures Bob Hoffman, Dr. John Ziegler and Lou Riecke as late as 1962 and beyond. It seems obvious that Roy learned about the details of steroid experimentation at York including the little blue pills known as Dianabol.
Alvin Roy Introduces Dianabol to American Football
Alvin Roy was an evangelist for applying the strength and conditioning methods learned at York to the arena of team sports, specifically American football. He introduced the first strength and conditioning programs to teams at the high school, at the collegiate and at the professional level.
Alvin Roy was also somewhat of an evangelist for the use of anabolic steroids, specifically Dianabol, in football as well. Roy had become something of a steroid guru through his relationship with the York Barbell Club and his inside knowledge of the York Barbell Club “steroid experiments”.
As strength coach, Roy led Isotrouma High School and Louisiana State University to championships in the late 1950s. Many people suspect the introduction of steroids and weights may have been the secret combination responsible for the teams’ success yet it has never been documented that Dianabol or any other steroid was a part of Roy’s success at Isotrouma or LSU.
Yet, there is no doubt that Roy introduced the organized and systematic use of steroids to professional football as the strength and conditioning coach of the San Diego Chargers in 1963 with remarkable results.
Steroid Use by the San Diego Chargers in the 1960s
Professional football players were already using anabolic steroids by the time Alvin Roy became the first American Football League strength coach at San Diego in July 1963. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Bob Waters admitted being prescribed Dianabol by team physician Dr. Lloyd Millburn as early as 1962. If the quarterback was using steroids, you can imagine that the lineman were likely using steroids as well.
However, when Alvin Roy came to San Diego, he and head coach Sid Gillman introduced Dianabol to everyone in a more systematic manner. Gillman and Roy advised players to take one 5 mg tablet of Dianabol with each meal every day. Players were given cereal bowls full of Dianabol pills at training camp.
The San Diego Charger team became unstoppable winning the AFL national championship in 1963. Court testimony later revealed that Chargers team physician Paul Woodward and other physicians continued to write prescriptions for Dianabol for some players from 1965 until at least 1970.
Alvin Roy the Steroid and Strength Guru Goes to Kansas City, Dallas and Oakland
Alvin Roy left the Chargers to become the strength coach for the Kansas City Chiefs under head coach Hank Stram in 1968. The Chiefs won Super Bowl IV in 1970.
The strength-training and steroid guru then took his secrets to the Dallas Cowboys under head coach Tom Landry. The Cowboys won Super Bowl VI in 1972.
Alvin Roy finally ended up coaching for the Oakland Raiders until his death from a heart attack in 1979.
Roy’s influence on the sport of professional football was dramatic. His role in introducing systematic weight training programs and spreading the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) throughout the NFL has largely been overlooked.
Additionally, one of Alvin Roy’s colleagues with the San Diego Chargers in 1963, assistant coach Chuck Knoll, ended up coaching the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Knoll hired Alvin Roy’s friend from York, Louis Riecke. The 1970s Steelers had its own well-publicized issues with steroid use during this time.
Steroid Use Explodes Into Other Sports
The use of anabolic steroids was pervasive in the West Coast bodybuilding subculture and the East Coast weightlifting subculture by the early to mid-1960s. Steroid use rapidly spread to many other sports during this period. It has been estimated that most Olympic athletes at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics had experimented with some type of anabolic steroid. The systematic and organized use of steroids had already made its way into professional American football.
So many athletes in all elite athletic disciplines were using steroids by 1969 that Jon Hendershott, editor of Track and Field News, facetiously called anabolic steroids the “breakfast of champions”.
Systematic Use of Anabolic Steroids by the USSR and East Germany
Steroid use by elite athletes was no secret by this time but everyone was still wondering what the Russians and East Germans were doing. Athletes thought that there was some top secret steroid being used by athletes in these countries that accounted for their dominant performance in many international competitions.
It was widely suspected that the Soviet and German governments not only sanctioned steroid use by its athletes but spent considerable resources researching the use of steroids for increasing athletic performance.
Bob Hoffman of York Barbell publicly attributed the dominance of the Soviet Union weightlifting team in their very first Olympic appearance at the 1952 Helsinki games to hormone products. This suspicion was confirmed in 1954 when an intoxicated Russian coach admitted to Dr. John Ziegler that the Russian weightlifters were using large amounts of exogenous testosterone.
Russians Loved the Nerobol and Retabolil Stack
A top secret 39-page Russian doping report entitled “Anabolic Steroids and Sport Capacity” published by the State Institute of Physical Culture in Moscow in July 1972 confirmed and provided a rare glimpse into the ongoing state-sponsored research into performance-enhancement drugs during this period.
Dr. Michael Kalinski was one of the recipients of this document when he was the former chairman of the department of sport biochemistry of the Kiev Institute of Physical Culture. The document provided the results of studies conducted on Soviet athletes using various combinations of anabolic steroids.
Research studies involving “Nerobol” and “Retabolil” were conducted on athletes in a variety of disciplines such as biathletes, rowers and basketball players. “Nerobol” is the Russian brand name for methandrostenolone popularly known as Dianabol. “Retabolil” is the Russian brand for nandrolone decanoate also known as Deca Durabolin.
The Russians popularized the synergistic combination of steroids in a practice known as “stacking”. Steroid s tacks including a combination of Dianabol and Deca Durabolin seemed to be the most effective and popular combination used among Russian athletes during this period.
The document provided clear recommendations for steroid use for elite athletes in sports such as weightlifting, boxing, wrestling and even gymnastics.
State-Sponsored Steroid Use in the German Democratic Republic
The German Democratic Republic’s (GDR) top sports doctor Manfred Hoeppner and the GDR’s minister of sport Manfred Ewald sought to replicate the success in the 1950s and 1960s of the Soviet doping program. Hoeppner and Ewald are considered the architects of East Germany’s state-sponsored doping regime.
Hoeppner and Ewald met with the Communist Party leaders at the East German Sports Performance committee in order to devise a plan to best guarantee international glory through the winning of Olympic gold medals. The systematic doping devised by the duo was called “state plan theme 14-25”.
The plan involved a team of chemists and pharmacologists working at a secret laboratory researching the use of illicit performance-enhancing drugs in elite athletes. The program was supervised by the German secret police known as the Stasi.
Jenapharm Produces Oral Turinabol for East German Athletes
Ewald had strong ties to the state-owned pharmaceutical company Jenapharm Pharmaceutical Company that worked on behalf of the GDR to develop and provide advanced performance-enhancing anabolic steroids. Jenapharm synthesized Oral Turinabol in 1960. It became one of the most widely used anabolic steroids in the GDR’s doping program throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
The Americans loved their Dianabol. The Russians their Retabolil plus Nerobol stacks. And the East Germans loved their Oral Turinabol.
The doping by East Germany was advanced and sophisticated and undoubtedly helps explain their phenomenal Olympic success between 1972 and 1988.
State of the Art Doping in the GDR
Their use of performance-enhancing drugs was not just limited to Oral Turinabol but also involved other anabolic steroids such as Dianabol, Testosteron-Ampullen (testosterone propionate), Testosteron-Depot-Ampullen (testosterone enanthate), Turinabol-Ampullen (Durabolin) and Turinabol-Depot-Ampullen (Deca Durabolin).
The East Germans also experimented with nasal sprays containing various testosterone esters and androstenedione; testosterone-stimulating drugs such as human chorionic gonadotropic (hCG) and Clomid (clomiphene citrate); neuropeptides such as lysine-vasopressin, oxytocin and substance P; stimulants such as amphetamine and methamphetamine; neurotropics and psychotropics such as Piracetam, Nicergolin and Nivalin; and polypeptide hormones such as somatotropin (human growth hormone).
The GDR systematic doping program was sanctioned at the highest level of government which ordered that anabolic steroids be used in male and female athletes as “integral part” of the training process; directly controlled by the sports ministry with centralized distribution of steroids, further research into optimizing doping by athletes and avoiding detection at international meets; education classes to teach sports physicians and coaches about doping; and absolute secrecy with doping classified as Official State Secret.
The scope of the East German doping program was mind-boggling. It involved hundreds of chemists, physicians and coaches. Everyone was working together researching, creating and administering performance-enhancing drugs. Steroids were administered to over 10,000 elite GDR athletes, including children as young as 11 years old, over the three decades in which Hoeppner and Ewald oversaw the East German sports machine.
Part Two of “The Amazing History of Anabolic Steroids in Sports” coming soon!