When talking about competitive sports the history of steroids runs deep; far more than many realize and much more than some would want you to believe. We’re all familiar and for that matter all too familiar with the phrase “The Steroid Era of Baseball” and most anyone with a functioning brain understands that the history of steroids has existed for an eternity in the sport of bodybuilding but what about sports as a whole? Is the Steroid Era of baseball unique in any way or does the history of steroids go far beyond the baseball field?
- First developed for performance enhancing purposes in 1930’s Germany
- Chemist Adolf Butenandt & Leopold Ruzicka awarded Nobel Prize for synthetic Testosterone development
- Used heavily by the Soviet Union Olympic weight lifting team who dominated the 40’s & 50’s
- Made famous by U.S. Olympic team physician John Ziegler with development of Dianabol
- Banned by the IOC in 1976 with issues of morality regarding a level playing field being the primary concern
- Labeled a Class III drug by the United States government in 1990, effectively making steroids illegal in the U.S. without a prescription
- Steroid Control Act of 1990 reinforced in 2004 with additional steroidal drugs being added to the list accompanied by stronger restrictions and punishments for offenders
There is a lot more detail to go into regarding the overall history of steroids but the question remains, how did we get to where we are today regarding drugs that at one time were considered miraculous feats of scientific discovery and how has this affected the history of steroids in sports as a whole?
When it comes to the big American pastimes, football and baseball, very few truly know the extent that these drugs have been used; after all, it’s not something many want to talk about or own up to, not when they’ve been painted in a way that makes “Chester the Molester” look like a saint. Even so, let’s look at some of the facts we do know and in those facts hopefully we’ll have a better understanding of the history of steroids in sports.
Through the 1960’s and 70’s, often referred to as the Golden Age of bodybuilding, steroids were used openly; even though this was not the beginning of the anabolic age, many enjoy pinpointing this era as the “Real” beginning when it comes to the history of steroids. Even the King himself openly talked about them; in an interview with Barbra Walters during his competitive reign, Arnold Schwarzenegger made no bones about it, he used steroids and was glad to talk about it. There are stories to this day of bodybuilders using steroids openly on the gym floor; asking for a Dianabol tablet was as common as bumming a quarter for the telephone.
We also know that through the 70’s and 80’s the NFL began to see a massive explosion in terms of growth, strength and speed of its players. The NFL did not start suspending players for anabolic steroid use until 1989 and even then testing was not done in the strictest manner possible. Now let’s think about that for a second; steroids, not illegal to use under the law, their functions and qualities are made well-known by a bevy of professional bodybuilders who trained in many of the same gyms as many NFL players; we witness a massive explosion in size and strength from lineman to skill players.
Now, in 1989 All-Pro defensive lineman Lyle Alzado admits to steroid use that began for him in 1969. Alzado’s claim was that his steroid use was responsible for the cancer in-which he had been diagnosed with, which subsequently took his life a few years later. Many people point to Alzado’s death as being one of the two major catalysts in creating the 1990 U.S. ban. Look at the facts we have just discussed; can you sit there comfortably knowing what you know and think for even a second that Alzado, a man who played and earned his living based on his playing performance in a time that saw men exploding in size and say with confidence that he was the only one? Of course not, not even close. The cold hard truth is the history of steroids runs deep in the NFL and continues to this day. Players are still getting faster and stronger at a rate that makes no sense at all unless steroids are in play.
The same can be said as it pertains to major league baseball, the only difference here is the light of guilt has been shown in a stronger way. For reasons that make as much sense as saying 2+2=7 major league baseball has taken the biggest hit of all when it comes to the anabolic game and from this day forward when you think about the history of steroids, the MLB is probably the first thing that comes to mind.
The simple reality is just that; simple. Athletes in football and baseball both have taken the steroid bullet and ironically, usually it’s only by those who reign supreme in their sport; does anyone else who understands how steroids work find that odd? But football and baseball players are not the only ones; athletes from hockey to track and field, cycling, golf, swimming, martial arts, gymnastics and everything else in between have been caught and the truth is they are simply the unlucky ones.