History of Anabolic Steroids

Isolation Of Gonadal AAS

testosterone chemical structureThe use of gonadal (the gonads in males are the testes and the gonads in females are the ovaries) steroids pre-dates their identification and isolation. While the medicinal use of testicle extract started in the last 19th century, its effects on strength were still under evaluation. Gonadal steroid isolation can be traced back to 1931 when a chemist in Marburg, Adolf Butenandt, was able to purify 15 milligrams of the male hormone androstenone from tens of thousands of liters of urine and the steroid was later synthesized by Leopold Ruzicka, a chemist in Zurich, in 1934.

Soon it was known in the medical fraternity that the testes contain a more powerful androgen than androstenone, and this hormone was first identified by Karoly Gyula David, E. Dingemanse, J. Freud and Ernst Laqueur in a May 1935 paper “On Crystalline Male Hormone from Testicles (Testosterone).” The hormone was named testosterone from the stems of the testicle and the suffix of ketone, sterol. In August 1935, the chemical synthesis of testosterone was achieved when Butenandt and G. Hanisch published a paper describing “A Method for Preparing Testosterone from Cholesterol.”

A week later, the third group, Ruzicka and A. Wettstein, announced a patent application in a paper “On the Artificial Preparation of the Testicular Hormone Testosterone (Androsten-3-one-17-ol).” The 1939 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was offered to Ruzicka and Butenandt but the Nazi government forced Butenandt to decline the honor but he accepted the same only after the end of World War II. Thereafter, human clinical trials involving either oral doses of Methyltestosterone or injections of Testosterone propionate started as early as 1937 and this was about the time when testosterone propionate was mentioned in a letter to the editor of Strength and Health magazine in 1938, which is believed to be the first instance when the name of an anabolic steroid first appeared in a U.S. weightlifting or bodybuilding magazine. It is rumored that the German soldiers were administered with anabolic steroids during the World War II and according to the physician of Adolf Hitler, Hitler was injected with testosterone derivatives to treat various ailments. U.S. President John F. Kennedy was administered with steroids, both before and during his presidency.

Development Of Synthetic AAS

In the 1940s, the development of muscle-building properties of testosterone was pursued in the Soviet Union and in the Eastern Bloc countries such as East Germany. In these countries, anabolic steroid programs were developed and implemented for enhancing the performance of Olympic and other amateur weight lifters. After the success of weightlifters from Russia and rumors that they used steroids, the U.S. Olympic Team physician Dr. John Ziegler worked with synthetic chemists in developing an anabolic steroid with reduced androgenic effects that led to the production of methandrostenolone, which was later known as Dianabol.

In 1958, this anabolic steroid was approved for use in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and was indicated to burn victims and the elderly and the off-label users of this drug were mostly weight lifters and bodybuilders. In 1976, the International Olympic Committee placed anabolic androgenic steroids on the list of banned substances and then introduced ‘out-of-competition’ doping tests a decade later as many athletes used steroids in training periods rather than during competition.


Anti-Doping by International Olympic Committee – (.pdf file)

Illegal Trade

While laws related to anabolic steroids vary from country to country; in the USA, AAS are considered a Scheduled III controlled substance, which punishes possession with up to 1 year in prison. If you buy steroids or sell steroids, you are criminally liable to a possible jail sentence of up to 10 years.

In nations, such as Moldova, Romania and Mexico, with a more lax legal framework towards anabolic steroids, AAS can be purchased over the counter in most pharmacies. This, in itself, creates an international black market where steroids are shipped from lax jurisdictions to more strict ones. For example, from Mexico to the United States.

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