Guest Post: Steroid Use through History

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We all know how competitive humans are, especially when it comes to sports. Athletes are pushing themselves harder and harder every day to be the best and achieve what nobody has achieved before. Sometimes they resort to various substances to enhance their performance, but many of those substances are actually quite harmful and forbidden.

Still, this has been happening ever since people discovered that some substances help them improve their athletic performance. The ancient Greeks used sesame seeds, while the Australian Aborigines chewed the pituri plant. On the other hand, Norse warriors were fond of hallucinogenic mushrooms and we there is a lot of evidence that many other ancient cultures had similar traditions.

Isolation of testosterone

The idea that testosterone could be isolated from the testicles dates back to 1931, when chemist Adolf Butenandt managed to secure approximately 15 mg of androstenone (a male hormone) by extracting it from many thousands of litres of urine. However, scientists were aware of an even more powerful androgen than androsterone at this point and pharmaceutical companies started isolating this stronger hormone that we know as testosterone. It was in 1937 that human trials started to develop our understanding of testosterone.

First attempt at cheating

In the seventh decade of the 19th century, a group of swimmers in Amsterdam were charged with taking drugs to become faster and for the next 80 years or so, all athletes who wanted to cheat turned their attention to finding stimulants that would help them speed themselves up.

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Synthetized testosterone

In 1935, the male hormone testosterone was first synthesized and historical records show that German soldiers were given testosterone during World War II to boost their performance and aggressiveness on the battlefield. That is the period when testosterone started being used widely in competitive sports, but people knew very little about the dangers of loading up on testosterone.

Performance-boosting steroids

The Soviet Union and East Germany were the countries that are said to have been the first to explore the use of testosterone in assisting physical performance. In the 1952 Olympics, the Russian weightlifting and wrestling teams dominated those sports, partly due to synthetic testosterone. With just a few side-effects, the use of testosterone seemed to be a success.

Needless to say, the US jumped on the bandwagon. John Ziegler, the team physician to the US Olympic squad, collaborated with chemists to create a drug that would improve performance capabilities, but wouldn’t have the androgenic side effects, including various skin-related problems, such as infamous brown spots. They came up with methandrostenolone, later sold as Dianabol, which is now one of the most widely used anabolic steroids in the world. Even Conan the Barbarian, i.e. Arnold Schwarzenegger, confessed to experimenting with steroids during his reign as Mr Olympia. It should be mentioned that they were not illegal at the time.

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This drug was approved for use by the FDA in 1958 and it was supposed to be used by the elderly as a medical intervention. However, bodybuilders were first to get wind of its potential and use it. Some US Olympic squad members were given only small doses under the watchful eye of Zielger, but they soon experienced negative side-effects, such as enlarged prostate and testicular shrinkage. Despite such glaring adverse side-effect, the IOC didn’t ban this substance until 1976. In the meantime, many athletes were using steroid, completely ignoring the dangers lurking, which allowed pharmaceutical companies to continue working on finding more efficient and less damaging solutions. The athletes using performance-enhancement drugs were mostly bodybuilders, shotput throwers and football players. The drugs helped them train harder and recover from injuries much faster.


In the 1980s, steroid use continued in what we call a “grey market” area. Even some top athletes continued to use them and we all remember Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, probably the most famous athlete who had his 1988 Olympic medal taken away from him become he had used prohibited substances to boost his performance. Despite the scandal, many non-competitive athletes and bodybuilders began to use steroids during this period, as well.

Another famous incident took place in 1984, when a bodybuilder contracted AIDS from sharing a needle for steroid use and four years later the sale of anabolic-androgenic steroids for non-medical purposes was made illegal under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. In 1990, possession of anabolic-androgenic steroids without a prescription was made illegal in the U.S.

Present day

Unfortunately, despite all the efforts, bans and controls, we have every reason to believe that many athletes are still using various types of steroids to improve their performance. When it comes to the general public, except for medical conditions requiring a prescription, androgenic anabolic steroids are illegal in many countries and are not sold over the counter.

It’s difficult to predict what is going to happen with the use of steroids, but we can safely assume that some types of performance-enhancement drugs will forever be present on the market. What we can hope, though, is that their side-effects will be less negative than before and that people in charge of controlling their use will be doing a better job.

Author Bio:

Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls interested in topics related to home improvement, DIY and interior design. In her free time she enjoys reading and preparing healthy meals for her family.

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19 thoughts on “Guest Post: Steroid Use through History

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  1. 1) “…historical records show that German soldiers were given testosterone during World War II to boost their performance and aggressiveness on the battlefield. ”

    Nope. ZERO documentation exists evidencing that German soldiers were administered testosterone to enhance their battlefied performance.

    German soldiers might have been given amphetamines, but no record exists that they ever received testosterone. It’s a claim which has been often repeated in the past decades, but which, when traced back through numerous references to its original source, has no evidence supporting it. John Hoberman, author of “Testosterone Dreams”, an academic who questions if not personally opposes the use of anabolic steroids for performance enhancement, labels it a myth:

    “The Myth Of The Nazi Steroid”

    2) “That is the period when testosterone started being used widely in competitive sports…”

    Nope. ZERO documentation exists evidencing that testosterone was used to boost athletic performance before 1950.

    Although other performance enhancers had always been used in competitive sports, and although testosterone had first been synthesized in a research laboratory in 1935, not until after 1950 did any athletes, weightlifters, or bodybuilders realize it could enhance athletic performance in young healthy men if taken in large enough supra-therapeutic doses.

    As any and all actual documentation until 1950 evidences, up until 1950, testosterone was known to only benefit people, primarily men, who were deficient in testosterone due to aging, injury, illness, or genetic dysfunction. Books such as “The Male Hormone”, published in 1945, by Paul de Kruif, and John Hoberman’s “Testosterone Dreams”, 2005,, make this clear. Any and all research done with testosterone until 1950 had shown it effective as what we’d call today “replacement” therapy. Until 1950, that was all that had been discovered about its effects.

    Any claims of testosterone, either oral or injectable, being used before 1950 by athletes, weightlifters, or bodybuilders rest on unsubstantiated rumours, speculations, and hearsay. NO actual record or objective evidence has ever been found.

    Most claims inevitably fall back on the “well, it existed before 1950, so, surely someone had discovered it could build muscle and strength in athletes, therefore, it must have been being used as an enhancer by young, healthy guys”. Which, amounts to mere speculation, since no record or evidence exists that anyone had discovered this fact before 1950 or was using it before 1950. ( A parallel history would be of INSULIN; insulin has been available and marketed since 1920s, yet bodybuilders didn’t realize it could be used to help build mass until after 1990).

    Note, too, that, until the 1950s, testosterone was the ONLY anabolic steroid which had been synthesized. No synthetic steroid besides testoterone existed until after 1950. All subsequent AAS, including Nilevar, Dianabol, Durabolin, and Deca-Durabolin, were not sythesized until the 1950s nor were manufactured until the 1950s. Meaning, no other anabolic steroids were even availble for athletics before 1950.

    1. Hey Joe. I just wanted to express my thanks to you for this. This is one of the most thoughtful and well researched responses I think I have ever seen. Very considerate and informative. That you for this!

      1. Hi Conor,

        I’m age 65, have been bodybuilding ever since age 15 when I began in 1971. I was bodybuilding during the years just before the book then the film “Pumping Iron” and Schwarzenegger made the public aware of bodybuilding; so, when I began, it was long enough ago that stigma still remained toward anyone who used weight training not primarily for improving athletic ability but primarily in order to build a proportionate, aesthetic physique. My dad, my buddies, others thought of me as “weird!” in those early 1970s.

        I’m one who simply “wants to know the why and how” of things, so, from the start, I’ve continuously educated myself about training, nutrition, recovery, muscle physiology and biochemistry, et cetera,; as well as constantly researched and studied the history of not only bodybuilding and physique competition but also strength training generally. Within that, I educated myself about the effects of testosterone and other hormones on the human body (due to my lack of genetic muscle potential, I chose never to use AAS myself, although I have no personal opposition to any adult who chooses to use them as long as that adult doesn’t claim his results have been achieved naturally). I also exhaustively researched, via a wide range of material written and published in books, articles, and studies dating back to about 1935, the history of hormones, their discovery, their syntheses, their pharmaceutical and commercial manufacture, and their usages and applications, among them estrogen, testosterone, and the other testosterone-derived anabolic steroids. I’ve collected a small library of books, academic journal articles, and other references in my decades-long process.

        About twenty years ago, I began focusing my research on, “WHEN did anabolic steroid usage among healthy young athletes and men for enhancing performance/building muscle actually begin?”

        In my research, again and again, I’ve encountered claims which amounted at most to conjectures. Often, even when a source was cited, that source iteslf cited a previous source…which, when followed back, ended up being an unsupported claim originally made. I later learned that others such as John Hoberman (who is not at all a proponent of PEDs, and whom I’ve corresponded with) encountered the same thing. Those claims occur not only on typical “bro knowledge” sites but sometimes even in otherwise-accurate scholarly books.

        The common culprit is failure to carefully check back to verify the original source, and/or, accepting speculations as facts .
        Another culprit is the tendency to quote something from a book or academic/research article or study yet fail to quote the context and/or fail to quote other vitally significant information which that source also states (A quote from Paul de Kruif’s 1945 “The Male Hormone” is commonly mis-represented due to this tendency).

        My conclusion concerning the “when” of bodybuilders using AAS, including testosterone, based on the objective, substantiated evidence available, sums to this:

        “any physique built through 1950 was built without any AAS; from 1951 through 1953 was most-probably built without any AAS; any physique built from 1954 onward is definitely suspect of having used at least some AAS.”

      2. Hey Joe,

        Thanks again for the follow up. You’re right about the lack of source tracing. The internet has been wonderful but often times I find that ‘truths’ are just repeated again and again through blogs.

        It is amazing how quickly fitness has gone from weird to wholy accepted. I began training in the early 2000s and activities engaged in then which were ridiculed are now common. How times change!

        On the PED chat, this was great and so happy to have met someone who has done the deep dives on the history. I think your conclusion can also be wonderfully traced through magazines. I love showing students the cover images from the 1940s and early 1950s before showing them the late 1950s/early 1960s. The physiques ‘evolved’ rather noticably

  2. In my personal research, I’ve found three of what I conclude are errors regarding scholarly sources, which I thought might interest you. Here’s the first of the the three; I’ll share the other two in later posts.

    1) This quote from Paul de Kruif’s 1945 book, “The Male Hormone” is commonly claimed to mean he pondered the effects of exogenous testosterone on athletes (I own a 1947 reprint edition, so quote from that copy):

    “…we know how both the St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Browns have won championships, supercharged by vitamins. It would be interesting to watch the productive power of an industry or a professional group that would try a systematic supercharge with testosterone…” (p. 223)

    Commonly, the statement is claimed to mean de Kruif implied athletes being enhanced with testosterone.

    However, in the context of the chapter containing that statement, and in the context of the point of his entire book, he didn’t mean that at all.

    The point of his book amounts to a promotion of what we today call Testosterone Replacement Therapy, for men who have aged, men who have suffered depletive, physically-devastating injuries and burns, and men born or become by injury or disease hypogonadal. Mr. de Kruif wrote the book because he himself had experienced (with the oral available from doctors then, methy testosterone) he restorative effects of testosterone replacement/supplementation therapy after he’d found himself physically deteriorating after age 50.

    His focus throughout the entire book is the restorative potential testosterone had for men whose T levels were below normal. Up to and including the publication of his book, the entire focus and use of testosterone was on men, especially aging men, lacking normal T levels.

    Earlier in the book, he wrote,

    “…There seemed to be no doubt that testosterone was the complete answer to a lack of the male hormone that’s the internal secretion of the human testicles….But what about testosterone’s possible effect upon our young men who were already too, too sexual and wanted to be still more so? It was a distrubing question….A reassuring answer came from Doctors vest and Howard. They had got volunteers among ‘normal’ husky young fellows and had given them double-sized injections of testosterone; and upon none of these ‘normal’ young men had there been any sexual effect at all. This seemed clear: it’s only when you lack natural male hormone that testosterone shows its magic power, and it can’t make you any more manly than manly….” (p 108, 109)

    It’s significant that the experiment used “double-sized” dosages. “Regular-sized dosages” meant enough to raise T levels to what are considered “normal range” for an adult male. As with today’s TRT, that means a dosage of about 100mg/week of injectable T cypionate or T enanthate, or the equivalent (T propionate was the injectable available in 1945). A “doube-sized dose” would be about 200 mg/week, therefore. But, as most any AAS veteran bodybuildr will explain, the very minimum an average-gened guy needs for significant muscle growth is 300-400 mg/week (and most beginner regimens use 500-600 mg/week, in which T is stacked with another AAS). That experiment yielded no change in those health young guys because the dosage used was too low to cause growth. BUT…nevertheless, based on the results of that experiment and as far as all other research done with T to that date evidenced, testosterone was effective only on men lacking normal T levels.

    Of course, we know today that T can be quite effective on healthy young men. But as far as de Kruif himself knew when he wrote his book, T was useless for any except old and hypogonadal men with low T.

    Realizing that that was de Kruif’s belief when he wrote the later statement of p 223 , the context of his words on p 223 become clear, especially when what else he wrote in chapter 26, entitled, “A New Lease On Life”, are considered:

    “The male hormone is now ready for the trial of its possible power to extend the prime of life of men. In mid-life many a strong man becomes dismayed at an isidious sapping of his vitality when he should be at the top of his living and working stride…
    …I’ve talked to many investigators who are observing testosterone’s power to life the vitality of many slipping men, restoring their muscular vigor, their nervous stability, their mental verve and clearness, and their stamina and their old calmness….they might be able to determine the approximate age at which slipping middle-aged men could still be given doses of testosterone that would restore them…
    …recommending that testosterone be experimentally tried out…to return (somewhat) the vigor of slipping middle-aged men, to put them back into vigorous work and production and to prolong (who knows how much?) the prime of their lives….
    ….Numerous other scientific reports combine to document more than six hundred cases
    demonstrating the power of the pure male hormone to boost the total vitality of men past fifty…
    ….To overcome the reluctance of physicians to test the pure male hormone on their under-par patients past fifty….this scientific therapeutic test…to uncover the extent and degree of the hormone hunger gnawing at men over fifty….
    …you have to take roughly four times more of methyl testosterone–milligram for milligram–by mouth than you have to take of testosterone proponate my injection. And it’s far more convenient to take the pills than to make three visits a week to wait for a shot in the doctor’s office. As insulin and the B vitamins have already shown, the growing demand wfor testosterone will soon bring it within reach of everybody. Then, in the form of a simple addition to their diets, we’ll see what the vital chemical will do to EXTEND THE WORKING LIFE OF MILLIONS of Americans. We know how both the St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Browns have won championships, supercharged by vitamins. It would be interesting to watch the PRODUCTIVE POWER OF AN INDUSTRY OR A PROFESSIONAL GROUP that would try a systematic supercharge with testosterone – – of course, under a good hormone hunter’s supervision.” (p. 208, 218-223, capitalization added by me here)

    In contexts of his book and of the chapter, de Kruif wasn’t thinking of testosterone being given to healthy athletes; as far as he believed, testosterone was ineffective on healthy young men. Rather, he was musing about whether an entire industry or professional group (say, of advertisers, scientists, managers, lawyers, doctors, bankers ) which gave TRT to its aging workers might extend their optimal physical/mental capacity therefore substantially increase the output of that industry or group.

    De Kruif’s statement is popularly cited as some sort of evidence for athletes and bodybuilders using before 1950 using testosterone. In context of his book and the chapter containing the quote itself, I don’t conclude his words are any evidence of that at all. To the contrary…it’s circumstantial evidence that, before 1950, no one including researchers, realized testosterone in substantial-enough doses could build significant amounts of muscle in healthy guys.

    1. Joe, you have been the gift that keeps on giving! This is just quite frankly fantastic. Thank you so much for taking the time out to reply with these quotations and commentary. I think this is probably my favorite ever comment! Your contextualisation of De Kruif is spot on and certainly gives credence to the idea that his was more a TRT focus (if that!). I’m certainly someone who fell into the trap of mentioning this work as an early indication of steroid use without actually reading it from the first source. Bravo! As an aside this also explains neatly the ignornance exhibited by some of the York gang when it came to early experiments!

  3. Conor,
    “….As an aside this also explains neatly the ignorance exhibited by some of the York gang when it came to early experiments!”


    John Fair’s “Muscletown USA”, 1999, pages 157-159, demonstrates that ignorance among the bodybuilders/Olympic lifters among the York Barbell circle in the early 1950s, when Ziegler recruited then-retired-from-competition-since-1949 John Grimek, 1952 AAU Mr. World 4th placer Yas Kuzuhara, and 1952 AAU Mr. America winner Jim Park for experiments with injectable testosterone. Those early 1950s testosterone experiments are the very first accounts of steroid use by bodybuilders anywhere. As Fair recounts, that initial, informal experiment failed to produce any substantial muscle growth response to testosterone (I suspect the dosages were too small and/or the duration too short – – Grimkek tried it for only 6 weeks and Park for merely one dose – – to be effective).

    Implied in the account is that, in the early 1950s, the use of testosterone for building muscle in healthy men was novel to not only Park and Kuzuhara but also to Grimek, whose last contests had been his 1948 NABBA Mr. Universe win and his 1949 AAU Mr. USA win.

    Further significant is that experiments with testosterone at York ceased with that one in 1954, and that it wasn’t until Ziegler returned in 1958/1959 with the Dianabol which CIBA first manufactured in 1955 then marketed beginning in 1958, that anabolic steroid experimentation at York resumed. That’s more circumstantial evidence that no bodybuilder at York, the then-capital of weight training and bodybuilding, used or was even aware of the musclebuilding potential of substantial doses of testosterone (which was the only anabolic steroid in existence and available, until norethandrolone under the brand name Nilevar was marketed by Searle in 1955/1956).

    That leads to #2 of the three of what I conclude are scholarly gaffes.

    Randy Roach’s usually-excellent 2008, “Muscle, Smoke, & Mirrors”, Vol. 1, p. 332, refers to Fair’s “Muscletown USA” , p.158, statement about a letter John Grimek allegedly wrote to a Dr. Becks in 1943 with questions about the oral form of testosterone sometimes being used to treat hypogonadalism and low T then, methyltestosterone.

    In my two decades of research, I’ve sought in vain for that Grimek correspondence, to read it firsthand. Just, nada. I haven’t located it yet.

    I even wrote to John Fair, asking about it; Fair replied to me hat the letter was originally among, “…Ziegler’s papers that were in his office in Olney, Maryland. I merely copied them on my old typewriter on their family’s dining room table and still have them in my office. I don’t don’t if the originals or the house still exist.” When I subsequently asked Fair three times if he could send me copies of his typed transcript of the letter, for strictly my personal, non-commercial use nor ever to reproduce without his written permission, Fair declined to send them.

    Sooooo…not having read that letter, whatever it contained is really nothing more than speculation. For all anyone knows, but based on what doctors and even researchers understood of testosterone up until 1943, the reply to Grimek from any doctor in 1943 may have explained that testosterone was effective only for a man with low T and useless to a healthy young man.

    Similarly, Roach also states in Vol. 1, on p.332, that Mike BonDurant (died 2016) and John Kiiha were in possesion of copies of CIBA ads dated 1947-1948 which were advertising synthetic testosterone to bodybuilders.

    I’ve searched and researched for the past ten years for those ads, including researching the history of CIBA’s steroid development and marketing. In my search, I found that CIBA marketed, until 1950, basically, three anabolic/androgenic products: Androstin, Penandren, and Metandren. I’ve seen their ads for those three testosterone products, ads dated as late as 1949; however NONE I’ve ever found are targeted toward anyone except hypogonadal, dysfunctional, convalescing, and/or aging men suffering low T. Not a one even implies bodybuilders were included in CIBA’s target market (all those ads were directed at doctors,either civilian or military, I should add, mainly appearing in medical and professional journals and symposium reports).

    Roach’s reference for the CIBA ad statement is footnoted to be interviews in 2005 with BonDurant and Kiiha; nowhere does Roach state that he’s actually seen those ads for himself.

    BonDurant and Kiiha owned a large collection and museum of bodybuilding historicalia. It’s possible that BonDurant and Kiiah themselves misremembered what those CIBA ads read, or perhaps the dates. Given the tiny market that bodybuilders in 1947-1948 would have been, for a mainstream-pharmaceutical business like CIBA was post-WW2 to be spending advertising money on such a then-unprofitable market seems unreasonable if not unlikely to me. So, until the existence of those CIBA ads-dated-1947-or-1948-to-bodybuilders is confirmed, it seems questionable scholarship to me to refer to them as evidence that “before 1950, bodybuilders used testosterone, or knew that testosterone could build muscle in healthy men” .

    I apologize for the too-many spelling typos in my previous post; and in advance for the typos I expect I’ve overlooked in this post.

      1. CONOR,

        …thought to add these three ads, the latest dated that I’ve found among several, to my post about CIBA’s testosterone ads.

        1) Androstine ad, undated:

        2) Perandren ad, last page of brochure dating it as 1949:

        3) Metandren ad, on page 11 of a medical bulletin dated 1949:

      2. Actually on my last point Joe, would you be interested in being interviewed on the website? I could just email you some questions about this area? It would be amazing, to have everything put together in a single post. No pressure at all but I know others would be fascinated by all this!

    1. Not at all Joe. I am in awe of the level of digging you have done in this area. The level of depth is remarkable and you lay out such a clear argument. I just love this sort of rigour and find it impossible to disagree with you. Kudos!

  4. Conor,

    Here’s a link to the 1949 ad for CIBA’s Perandren, available then as an oral methyltestosterone and as an injectable testosterone propionate; the brochure has the date of 1949 mentioned on its last page; “male climacteric” was the term commonly used in the 1930s and 1940s to refer to what’s sometimes termed “male menopause” today:

    …And, to an ad, undated, for CIBA’s Androstine (click to enlarge the photo):

    …And, to a 1949 ad for CIBA’s Metandren; note the date on page 1 of the brochure and the ad on page 11:

    I have found other ads for these three CIBA tesosterone products, also advertising for the same therapeutic purposes, and none which advertise them for anything other than treating hypogonadal, convalescent, dysfunctional,and/or aging men with Low T.

    For general FYI pertinent to Androstine, Perandren and Metandren…

    The propionate ester form of injectable testosterone is and was a form with a shorter steroid half-life than the cypionate and enanthate ester forms commonly used in prescription TRT today. For TRT purposes, the cypionate and enanthate forms release the testosterone at a rate that typically ends up requiring one injection of 100 mg approximately per week to maintain a relatively normal T level; in contrast, the propionate form releases faster, typically requiring two or sometimes three injections per week that total 100 mg. to maintain a normal T level in TRT. If used in the much greater weekly doses necessary to gain substantial muscle mass, it usually has to be injected every other day if not every day. Since it has to be injected more frequently, it’s regarded by some bodybuilders as less convenient. Consequently, it’s not usually used by bodybuilders today during a mass-gaining phase as a stand-alone anabolic but, rather, stacked, or incorporated at certain points during a cycle, with cypionate, enanthate, or other slower-release forms of T and/or other anabolic steroids.

    Methyltestosterone is an oral/sublingual that has a comparatively poor muscle-building effectiveness unless taken in such large doses that its too liver-toxic and its estrogenic side-effects dominate. (If you recall, de Kruif mentions in 1945 how, for restorative therapy, it required 4 times as much methlytest to equal the effectiveness of one regular-sized dose injection of test propionate?) Consequently, methyltest is rarely used today except by some strength and power competitors, often in its sublingual form and immediately prior to attempting a lift; its androgenic properties can increase or spike aggressiveness, which some strength competitors feel is a benefit, especially during a competition.

    These characteristics of methlytest (anti-estrogenics weren’t developed until the late 1950s) and test prop (the high injection frequency necessary for the doses large enough to stimulate substantial muscle growth) might mean that, even IF bodybuilders before 1950 had been aware of the muscle-growth possible using high dosages of testosterone, the only two forms of test available before 1950 would have made significant muscle gain with them extremely impractical if not prohibitive.

  5. Conor,

    …I thought to add to my last post concerning CIBA’s testosterone marketing these four links to ads for CIBA’s Androstine, Perandren, and Metandren. They’re only four of the ads I’ve found through my years researching.

    1)An undated Androstine ad (click on the photo to enlarge it for reading):

    2) A CIBA Perandren ad dated 1949; its date appears on the last page of the brochure:

    3) A CIBA Metandren ad dated 1949; its date is found on page 7 and the ad itself on page 11 of the medical bulletin:

    None of the CIBA ads, nor research into CIBA, I’ve ever found for these three tesosterone products states they’re indicated for anything except hypogonadal,convalescent, dysfunctional patients, and/or aging men experiencing “male climacteric” (what is often termed today “male menopause”).

    1. Absolutely fantastic. I think there is so much scope for a wonderful book on dispelling the early myths about steroids in this space. You’ve certainly shown that the paper trails are there!

  6. CONOR,

    This is #3 of three of those what I consider scholarly gaffes concerning evidence of anabolic steroid use by bodybuilders or weightlifters before and inclusive of 1950.

    In James E. Wright’s Jan. 1980 article, “Anabolic Steroids And Athletics” (Exercise And Sports Sciences Reviews, Vol. 8 #1, p 160), he states, “Although extensive personal interviews that we have conducted indicate that there were some spotty uses of testosterone compounds by bodybuilders and weight lifters in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the drugs evidently were not used in the strength sports on a regular basis until the mid to late 1950s.” Wright cites three references in parentheses immediately following that statement.

    As has been documented and not merely “…indicated…”, Ziegler’s experiments with testosterone on three bodybuilders at York occurred in the early 1950s.

    However, no documentation exists for bodybuilders using testosterone in the 1940s, not even in, as Wright specifies here, in the LATE 1940s.
    Of the three references he cites with that claim, two say nothing about testosterone enhancement in the late 1940s. Payne, 1975, states, “The story was that the drugs had first become available to the weight lifting and body building fraternity in the 1950s…”
    Wade, June, 1972, states, “The first use in athletics seems to have been by the Russians in 1954….Ziegler was probably the first in the United States to test the new anabolic stroids on athletes.”
    Enjurales, 1972, I have not yet been able to track down to read, but significantly, have never found referenced anyplace else as would be expected if it did provide evidence of testosterone enhancement by athletes before the 1950s.

    Wright’s sole evidence for late 1940s use of testosterone is what he termed “extensive interviews that we have conducted”.

    However, Wright provides zero details of those interviews. Wright never documents any details of nor quotes from those interviews anywhere in the 1980 article nor in anything else I’ve found written by him.

    Besides himself, Wright never identifies the “we” who conducted the interviews.

    He fails to explain what he means by “extensive”.

    He fails to specify what years he means by “late 1940s” (1947? 48? 49?) or by “early 1950s” (1950? 1951? 1952? 1953?)

    He never defines “spotty”, neither providing an actual count nor how that count distributed among each of the actual years (for example, does “spotty” mean “three”, of which one alleged use was in 1949, one in 1950, and one in 1951?)

    Wright never identifies the interviewees nor specifies how many of those interviewees recounted testosterone use in the late 1940s. He doesn’t provide the number of interviewees, meaning the plural “interviews” could mean as few as one interview each with two people, or even two interviews with the same one person. He never provides the ages of the interviewees, nor, most importantly, how many, if any, interviewees personally used testosterone in the late 1940s; or had been directly told so by those using, or actually eyewitnessed others using, testosterone in the late 1940s; or were second-hand “In 1948, I heard from a guy that so-and-so had tried T in early 1947”; or were not present until later in the 1950s/ 1960s/1970s, so were third-hand “I heard in 1960 from a guy, who said he’d trained in the same gym Grimek frequented back in 1948, that Grimek used injectable T in 1948.”

    If anonymity was a concern, Wright could have provided most of those details while maintaining the anonymity of the interviewees.

    Neither does he state the dates during which he conducted the interviews. Since his article was published in 1980, it seems reasonable to assume the interviews occurred no earlier than 1970, therefore at least twenty years removed from the “late 1940s”. As historians seeking facts are aware, even eye-witnesses interviewed decades-after-the-event need to be heard with a grain of salt; it’s common to encounter contradictory versions even among eye-witnesses when that much time has elapsed. Memories and dates of events blur, especially when the event wasn’t particularly impactful when it happened. It’d be easy for someone to forget exactly what year a meant-little-at-the-time incident that is recalled as occurring sometime in the late 1940s/early 1950s actually did occur.

    To me, even the ambiguity of Wright’s wording, “…in the late 1940s and early 1950s….” fits what can be expected of interviewees struggling to recall when something happened twenty and more years ago so merely estimating or approximating.

    In the absence of details from and about these interviews, especially since Wright’s interviewees are never named, their memories and claims are beyond critical assessment for confirmation.

    To me, placing value on them as evidence for testosterone use pre-1950 seems questionable scholarship at best.

    1. Just as always Joe. Cracking. It is amazing to see how these ideas were perpetrated again and again through research. Funnily I was having this conversation with a friend recently about the problems with blogs and websites. One website will make a claim, often without research, it will be repeated in another website which simply links back to the first and continues ad nauseum. Its a very similar house of cards to what you describe!

  7. “Actually on my last point Joe, would you be interested in being interviewed on the website? I could just email you some questions about this area?”

    Although I do think that there are a couple others around who articulate the subject better than I do, yes, I’m willing to try your suggestion. You can email me at the address you have on my posts.

      1. Conor,

        Yep, next week or whenever it suits your schedule. I’m a 65-year-old retired builder-roofer-contractor, so, besides some acoustic guitar and my weekly bodybuilding workout schedule (a home gym…actually, most of it outdoors, for the heavy stuff like squats and deads and shrugs and barbell rows, and for the pull-up and dip bars I attached to conveniently located trees, lol), I have plenty of leisure time. No money, but, plenty of time…so, I’ll be fine however this fits into your time.

        My wife (we’re married 41 years, six now-adult kids) says she’s glad I’ll have someone else instead of her for my tedious, academic iron game monologuing, so she won’t have to politely nod her head while she pretends to interestedly listen, LOL

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