What Do We Know About Doping In Sport?

What Do We Know About Doping In Sport?

Performance Enhancing Drug Abuse Has Been Rife For Centuries In One Form Or Another

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The Russian doping scandal has shaken the sporting world. With ever more sophisticated testing available it seems the past can really catch up with athletes with many relinquishing their medals from as far back as 8 years ago. However, this is by no means a recent issue, athletes have been trying to get an edge for centuries and the Tour de France has been notorious for producing some spectacular cocktails of drugs and unfortunately, deaths.

Here we have compiled a list of what we know about doping in sport.

1. State sponsored doping has been used, and still looks to be used as a propaganda tool. It was initially recognized back during the cold war when the soviets were vying for world superiority. As the Russian bear has started to roll its sleeves up again and become more involved in world politics it seems the doping has hit new heights.

2. With the ancient Greeks’ penchant for many liberalism’s it may not seem too surprising to hear their athletes were eager to use a cocktail of brandy, wine, hallucinogenic mushrooms and sesame seeds to seek out that athletic edge.

3. The earliest known performance enhancing drug was offered up by an American fellow called Charles Edouard Brown-Sequard, his ambitiously know ‘elixir of life’ was administered to the pitcher of the Pittsburgh Alleghenys Baseball team in 1889. The pitcher, Jim Gavin, won the game, as such this proved that the product ‘worked’.

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4. The celebrated ‘elixir of life’ comprised the testosterone from 11 animals including dogs, sheep and even guinea pigs. This supposedly embodied the essence of animal energy.

5. The early 1900’s saw a boom in doping formula’s with competitive athletes all looking to gain that edge. Notably a marathon runner by the name of Thomas Hicks was injected with sulphate strychnine, a relative of rat poison, with brandy chasers. He nearly died…but he also won gold.

6. Perhaps buoyed by the success of Hicks’ victory, the 1920’s saw doping remedies laced with strychnine, heroin, cocaine and caffeine, none of it was illegal and it was seen openly but the recipes were as secretive as they are today.

7. Other components of these legal cocktails included nitroglycerin and even sugar cubes dipped in ether to aid competitive walkers who would ensure races of 500 miles or more.

8. The mid-1900’s saw the rise of amphetamines which were used by soldiers during WWII to increase morale and energy to fight longer. After the war, amphetamines were soon recognized as a key driver for sporting prowess.

9. During the cold war during the bleak 1950’s, the Soviets started experimenting with testosterone to increase strength and power. This then spread to the German Democratic Republic in the 1970’s when the state started doping athletes from as young as 10 years old. The results were obvious, they won 216 medal, of which 87 of them were Gold.

10. However, the modern day anabolic steroids as we know them were not formulated until an American, John Bosley Ziegler spoke with a soviet doctor. Once he learned about the substantial gains of the Russian athletes using testosterone he developed the first anabolic steroid to ensure American also had an edge. The use of steroids rapidly spread throughout all athletes when the weightlifters results were seen.

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Ben BA(Hons), PGCert

Ben established this site to be a free resource in 2015. Since then it has gained over half a million visits. He has always been interested in sport and he started playing rugby at the age of 6 represented his town, county and school. Ben also enjoys cycling, has started skiing and is in the Army Reserve representing his Regiment as part of the 150 Regimental Shooting Team. He holds a bachelor's and postgraduate degree in sport exercise & nutrition.

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