The history of anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS or ‘anabolics’) goes back to the time of ancient “endocrinology”. It was over six thousand years ago when farmers, observing animals’ behavior following castration, first noticed their improved domestication. Ever since doctors have been prescribing their patients AAS to treat different diseases despite their demonstrable and dangerous side effects. Researchers have been interested in developing new anabolics and synthesizing their artificial form. Pharmacists have shown a similar interest in these substances because of their increasing popularity. Regrettably, nowadays AAS are abused by athletes, bodybuilders, and teenagers alike. Read on to learn more about the history of steroids.
The History of Anabolics in the XIX Century
In 1849, the scientist Arnold Berthold (1803—1861) took the initial step by studying the action of testosterone in animals. As a consequence, scientists began to look for ways to chemically synthesize this naturally occurring hormone.
The first concept of doping appeared in the English dictionary in 1889. It was then that drugs increasing the endurance of racehorses first appeared. At, approximately the same time, chemists attempted to create substances that improved athletic performance. Also in 1889, scientists observed the action of testosterone in the human body.
Athletes tried to cheat even before the invention of anabolics. Thomas John Hicks took strychnine (a rodent poison) and some brandy to win the Olympic marathon in 1904. This crystalline alkaloid has some muscle-stimulating effect despite its pesticidal toxicity.
The History of Anabolic Medications in the XX Century
In 1935, the testosterone formula was finalized by the French scientist, Ernst Laqueur. Simultaneously, Adolf Friedrich Johann Butenandt and Leopold Ružička perfected testosterone properties. They patented the technology and were awarded the 1939 Nobel Prize for Chemistry in recognition of their research achievements.
After that, test drugs went into production. However, there was one significant problem. The products had an oily base that was water insoluble, and therefore it didn’t achieve the desired effect when taken orally. Over time, the formula underwent several improvements and injectable medicines were manufactured allowing for better results. The drugs were called “anabolic-androgenic”, as anabolic means “myotrophic, renotrophic”, and androgenic is “virilizing”.
There is evidence that soldiers of Hitler’s Wehrmacht used steroids to increase aggressiveness and remorselessness, but this data has never been subject to confirmation. Scientists Marcel Reinold (University of Münster) and John Huberman (the University of Texas) dispelled this myth in 2014. They wrote that the legend is associated with an ingrained culture of vivid imagination prevalent in the Nazi regime, the perverseness of the Nazis, and an enduring fascination with Nazism that includes megalomania, in particular, represented by sadism. AASs are known as catalyzers of aggressiveness, thus they have become an identifier of the Nazi ethos and regime.
Anabolic steroids were first introduced in significant numbers in sport in 1954 by Olympic weightlifters. An oral steroid pill called Dianabol (methandrostenolone) was a game changer in the increase and spread of steroids. This drug was created by the doctor of the American weightlifters’ team, Dr. John Ziegler, together with CIVA in 1956. This medicine achieved great popularity in weightlifting which subsequently spread to other sports. Bodybuilders also began to actively use it but unfortunately, female athletes had not remained immune from Methane.
In the 1960s, most of the drugs sold today were already on the market. Untrammelled AAS abuse continued until the mid-sixties. During that period, athletes used steroid drugs in copious quantities and intricate combinations, often without consulting doctors at all. Prescriptions for anabolics were handed out like Smarties. There were no adequate medical studies on the use of “juice”.
AASs were in great demand among the Olympiad participants in the 70s and 80s. In 1974, the IOC officially included anabolic drugs into the general list of doping and banned substances. At the Games of the XXIII Olympiad, several sports persons were disqualified for using interdicted athletic medications. In addition, during the 1980s, several newfangled anabolics appeared. In the US, the special lex adopted in 1990 placed anabolics into Schedule 3 of the Controlled Substances Act. Additionally, the IOC and other sports organizations banned the use of steroids by athletes. In 2004, Congress enacted the AS Control Act of 2004, which prohibited OTC steroid precursor substances, elevated penalties for their production, distribution, or possession, and allocated funds for preventative educative measures. Dura lex, sed lex.
Anabolic Steroids in Today’s Society
Nowadays AAS are extensively used by fitness “buffs”, bodybuilders, powerlifters, MMA artists, swimmers, and other athletes. These categories of people state that performance improvement drugs enable them to enhance their physical indicators and as a result feel more competitive. Steroids increase muscle mass, aggressiveness, and strength. Moreover, thanks to these drugs, athletes have a shorter “reconstruction” time after workouts or injuries, which means less disruption to training schedules allowing them to exercise nonstop, thus improving their endurance and overall performance. Another group of steroid users include people employed as bodyguards, law enforcement officers, and construction workers. In their case the drugs allow them to improve physical strength which is a requirement of their job. The final category of those who use steroids include people desirous of enhancing their personal appearance by reducing body fat and increasing muscle size.
Some athletes do not trust research data concerning steroids’ effect on the body and continue to abuse anabolics in ever-increasing doses. They are afraid to admit their secrets to doctors.
What About Corticosteroids?
According to the study by T. Benedek (2011), the first clinical trials aimed at researching the effect of animal adrenocortical extract on human adrenal disorder were conducted in 1930. In 1948, cortisone was used for the first time to treat a patient suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. In 1950-51 its oral and intra-synovial administration began. 1952 saw successfully conducted research focused on producing corticosteroid called cortisone semi-synthetically. In the period between 1954 and 1958, there were 6 synthetic steroids introduced for systemic anti-inflammatory treatment.