By Deep Majumdar
There is nothing new about the widespread use of anabolic agents among bodybuilders. But did you know that steroids are being used in every other sport you can think of. They are easily accessible and rather affordable. In a world like ours where people possessing the “whatever it takes’ mindset can go to any limits to emerge victorious in any form of competition, it is not hard to believe that steroids are a part of the regimen of many known athletes. Many a few think that incorporation of PEDs is a recent phenomenon. However, this holds to be not true. The origin of this miraculous compound can be deemed as early as late 1880s. It is just that the popularity of PEDs has recently risen to immense heights due to scandals and doping test failures, while the truth is that they have been in the business for a very very long time.
Introduction to Steroids
To the layman who has no idea of what a steroid is let’s just say they are chemically synthesized compounds which fall into the category of pharmaceuticals. You see there are two distinct types of steroids, Corticosteroids and Anabolic steroids. Corticosteroids are primarily anti-inflammatory substances prescribed by doctors to reduce inflammation whereas anabolic steroids are a completely different class of drugs used for the purpose of building and retaining lean muscle mass. Although both the types are prescription drugs, anabolic steroids have found their place in the sports and athletics community and are used by athletes extensively across the world.
Inception of Anabolic Steroids
The onset of anabolic steroids can be traced back in the 1950s when Dr John Ziegler in association with Ciba pharmaceuticals, introduced the steroid that proved to be a game changer, methandrostenolone, aka, Dianabol. Since then the popularity of steroids has been no less than a forest fire. And there’s no stopping it. Not anytime soon I suppose. Steroids are on a high and it seems that they’ll be this way for a long time. Since the inception of Dianabol, steroids have developed in nature, strength and magnitude. There are over 32 types of steroids each with unique properties of their own.
However, the experimentation on anabolics, can be tracked even as early as 1889 when 72-year-old Charles Edouard Brown began experimentation on testicular serum. In his experiments, he used, first, blood in the testicular vein, second, semen, and thirdly, fluids extracted from testicles of a dog. His experiment consisted of a 3-week long self-administration of subcutaneous injections. The results were a significant improvement is physical and mental energy. This experiment would, later on, go to become the foundation of modern endocrinology. This laid down the path of discovery of synthesized testosterone by a certain German biochemist Adolf Butenandt in 1930. Pharmaceutical giants at that time saw the potential and jumped on the bandwagon. Organon, Schering and Ciba, which were major pharmaceutical firms, put full throttle into producing synthetic testosterone on a commercial level. In 1935, Ciba and Schering shared a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work on anabolic androgenic steroids (Adolf Butenandt and G. Hanisch of Schering, and Alfred Wettstein of Ciba. ) Pharmaceutical companies soon saw the opportunity and rushed in. Steroids like Durabolin and Deca Durabolin, and Anadrol and Masteron by Organon and Syntex, respectively, hit the shelves and created a place in history along with Ciba’s Dianabol.
Recognition in Sports
After Dianabol came in the market, the athletics scenario changed. Athletes were able to reach greater heights and push themselves to the absolute limit. It didn’t take athletes all around the world to reckon the true strength of such a drug. Some, on the other hand, were essentially used as veterinary grade pharmaceuticals whereas some were used to cure certain ailments. Compounds like Trenbolone Acetate and Boldenone Undecylenatewere used to increase the muscle mass of cattle for more beef whereas compounds such as Oxandrolone andNandrolone Decanoate were originally used for curing diseases like osteoporosis, a skeletal muscle wasting disease and Turner disease syndrome, a deformity wherein the affected experiences swelling in the hands and feet (lymphedema), and extra skin on neck.
Banned from Sports
Soon after the widespread use of steroids began, various sports authorities started taking notice. Who wouldn’t? Marathon sprinters were shoulder pressing as much as weightlifters. That’s something to take into consideration. Several studies were conducted. But the initial studies suggested that anabolic steroids had little or no effect on the athletic performance. But such studies were later discarded as the doses used were way too less. Despite the conclusions, the use of performance enhancing drugs was banned by the IOC (International Olympic Council) and by many major sporting federations. Although, due to inadequate doping methods and methods to reduce traceability of drugs, it wasn’t until the 1990s that steroid detection was taken seriously. This along with underground programs by the German government to continue steroid administration into their athletes gave steroids a bad name in the sporting world.
History of Performance Enhancing Before Steroids
It has been more than 80 years since the inception of the first anabolic compound. Today, every sport and every athlete we know is either using performance enhancing drugs or at least open to the possibility of using them. Be it cricket, football, rugby, basketball, baseball, wrestling or boxing, they all use it. Steroids have a pandemic effect on the sporting world and the truth be told that they’re not going away anytime soon. The underlying question here is where are we going wrong? Why are we unable to eradicate this cancer from the world of sports and athletics? One might think, is it a cancer, though?
Sports or wars, people do what they can to get the smallest of advantages over their competitors. The Romans never tested their gladiators, Sparta never questioned their Spartans and neither did Attila run dope tests on his Huns.
The legendary Berserkers of Norse mythology used bufotenin (a drug that comes from fly-agaric, a mushroom containing muscarine, a deadly alkaloid) to increase their fighting strength many folds. The Samoyeds (an indigenous tribe in northern arctic Russia) used the same stimulant to induce a heightened state of combativeness. The organic stimulant norpseudoephedrine, a psychomotor drug found in Africa that has been used by the people of the region to increase strength and delay the onset of fatigue.
Stimulants and performance enhancers have been a part of the human history and heritage which would force one to question the oppression towards performance enhancing drugs. In a world where rampant usage of sports medication is now a common practice, why do performance enhancing drugs are made the scape goat for all the evils. As far as the health concerns go, peanuts kill more people in a year than steroids do. As far as fairness in sports goes, believe it or not, it’s out there and it’s been used. After all, it’s not called cheating if everybody is doing it.