A number of writers have argued that steroids were manufactured and refined for physical performance purposes by the Nazi party during the Second World War. Houlihan offers the claim that steroids 'were used [in the 1940s] for the non-medical purpose of increasing the aggressiveness and strength of German soldiers' (1999: 45). Unfortunately, he fails to cite any supporting evidence. John Hoberman discusses in some detail the myth of Nazi steroid science (1992) but it remains impossible to judge with any real certainty whether this myth has any basis in fact. There is no evidence available to support the claim. Regardless of the actuality, the myth does serve to support the broader association of steroids with exploitative, totalitarian regimes such as the Nazis, the German Democratic Republic and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
However, as noted above the development of hormonal therapy was gathering pace in the United States by the 1940s. In 1945 the American magazine Business Week proclaimed 'Of all the sex hormones, testosterone is said to have the greatest market potential' (cited in Hoberman 2005: 3). Also in that year, Paul de Kruif published the influential book, The Male Hormone, which outlined a highly positive appraisal of the drug's potential. He argued that it could enhance the sex drive of men and women, and that the established medical societies such as the AMA were not taking it seriously because of its connections with sexual activity. Despite this, doctors were recommending hormones for a range of ailments, notably those related to the ageing process. De Kruif used it himself, claiming that it extended his sense of vitality and manhood even though he was in his mid fifties.
The potential for athletes was not lost on de Kruif:
We know both the St. Louis Cardinals and St. Louis Browns have won championships, super-charged 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.
(de Kruif 1945, cited in Taylor 1991: 16)
The question of who first used steroids for sporting competition has yet to be conclusively answered. Anecdotal evidence, to be treated with some caution, suggests that bodybuilders in California indulged in the aftermath of de Kruif's book (Yesalis et al. 1993). This might make sense given other circumstantial details such as the first known scientific experiment linking steroids and sport. In 1944 a group of American researchers treated six men with methyltestosterone (supplied by Schering under the name Oreton-M) for 3-6 week periods to test their physical responses (Simonsen et al. 1944). The result was 'enhancement of central nervous system reflex time, back strength muscle enhancement, and increases in dynamic and static work performance' (Taylor 1991: 14). These conclusions were published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology. We cannot say for certain if research led to athletes' consumption, but the information was available at the time for those looking for enhancement products. And the experiment must have set out to test a hypothesis. In other words, the results might have firmed up speculations that had been circulating for some time.
However, the association of steroids with corrupt regimes fits neatly with the standard historical account of how these drugs were introduced to Western sport. This story begins in 1954 when a Soviet doctor at the World Weightlifting Championships in Vienna told his American counterpart, Dr John Zeigler, that his team had been enhanced by testosterone (Voy 1991). Zeigler, and other American sports doctors were allegedly unaware of the potential application of steroids in sport. The protagonists in this story supposedly make for reliable witnesses, mostly Zeigler himself who later in his career openly discussed his role in the development of steroids for American athletes. So it seems this is the first confirmed use of the drugs for competition. It is curious though that the Americans had not thought of using testosterone or steroids in sport before 1954. After all, it was in use and given the various claims made for hormonal treatment by drugs companies and researchers (Hoberman 2005), it seems very unlikely that Zeigler had to be told by a Soviet doctor that testosterone was useful for bodybuilding. In constructing this story, however, American writers such as Bob Goldman et al. (1984) and Robert Voy (1991) took Zeigler's account as fact and allowed him the opportunity to express not only regret at the ways in which the drug was abused, but also some positive self-appraisal as he claimed to have sought a safe way of allowing athletes to use steroids. It also led to Western writers uncritically accepting the idea that the USA were only reacting to Soviet behaviour:
The 1950s, the era of the Cold War, saw the introduction of perhaps the most devastating drug known to Olympic sport. In the Soviet Union, in an effort to facilitate increases in the strength and power of their athletes, officials and medical personnel gave many of their athletes injections of testosterone. This appeared to give athletes who took it an advantage, and the Soviet Olympic medal tallies increased. To combat this unwelcome competition, some US athletes introduced a medical counter-measure, and began using steroids.
(Toohey and Veal 2000: 143)
Similarly, Pat Lenehan argues that Zeigler only found out about Soviets using steroids in 1954 and that he then decided 'his own team needed to get even' (2003: 64). It seems most reasonable to assume groups in both the USA and the USSR were developing knowledge on steroids from the early 1950s onwards. John Zeigler's partnership with CIBA to produce Dianabol had coincided with a boom in bodybuilding cultures (Woodland 1980). The quest for more strength and muscle mass quickly led to problems. Zeigler told the journalist Bil Gilbert in 1969, 'The trouble was that the [users] went crazy about steroids. They figured if one pill was good, three or four would be better, and they were eating them like candy. I began seeing prostate trouble, and a couple of cases of atrophied testes' (Gilbert 1969: 70).
The myth of Nazi science, the accusation that Soviets 'started it', and Zeigler's later remorse, actually mask a more complex and intriguing story. Evidence from people who worked with Zeigler suggests that while he was a good community physician, he was also something of an eccentric and a man interested in pioneering experimentation. John Fair's (1993) account of the development of Dianabol in the context of wider scientific, political and sporting cultures of the time is a much underrated contribution to this history. Fair's interviews, including that with former Olympian, Mr America and Mr Universe, John Grimek, shed new light on the way in which the drug was tested and developed. Grimek worked with Zeigler and claimed he had developed a relationship with CIBA pharmaceutical company before 1954 who supplied him with testosterone for 'experimental purposes' (1993: 4). Just as importantly, it seems CIBA had somehow managed to provide the doctor with 'books and records from Germany where similar experiments were carried out by the Nazis' (1993: 4). This does suggest that the Nazis did work with steroids, a fact that could support that Nazis-as-inventors myth. However, not only was research being conducted in America around the same time, but Zeigler and CIBA were unethically using research data from potentially inhumane trials. Regardless of these issues, Zeigler, and presumably CIBA, wanted to know if the drugs would enhance the physique of already 'bulked up' bodybuilders and weightlifters.
In 1952, Zeigler worked with athletes who used the York gym in Pennsylvania. He persuaded the then Mr America, Jim Park, featherweight champion Yas Kuzuhara and John Grimek to try the testosterone. Although this raft of tests proved unsuccessful - the athletes failed to see the impacts of the drugs and felt 'lousy' - Grimek was still trying out Zeigler's 'chemical substances' in 1954 (Fair 1993: 4-5). This was two years after Bob Hoffman accused Soviet weightlifters of using hormones in the 1952 Olympics. When the USA team went to the world championships in Vienna in October 1954, the Soviets accused them of stimulating the athletes with some kind of drug. And yet, it was precisely at this event that Zeigler later claimed he was informed by a Soviet doctor 'after a few drinks' that some of his team were using testosterone (Fair 1993: 4). While Zeigler must have been frustrated with the 1952 failures, he was also angry at the Soviets' accusations, and probably irritated that the Soviets seemed to have found a way of successfully applying testosterone. Due to other work commitments, he did not return to this puzzle until the late 1950s.
By this stage, the politics of the Cold War had taken a radical turn, and sport was increasingly being dragged in to the propaganda and vitriol. The Soviet Union did not initially enter the Olympic Movement after the Second World War partly because of a certain disaffection between the IOC and the Soviet government. The former had been irritated by Russia's role in helping organise Worker Games in 1932 and 1936 parallel to the Olympic Games. As a result, the President of the IOC from 1952-1972, Avery Brundage, was ambivalent about the USSR joining the first post-war Games in London (Riordan 1993: 28). For their part, the Soviet Government condemned the IOC after an article published ahead of the 1948 Games in a Soviet magazine claimed that the
Olympics were run by capitalists and aristocrats, that workers had little chance of competing, that racial discrimination against Jews and Blacks had occurred in Berlin in 1936 and would be applied against East Europeans who, in any case, might well be corrupted and recruited as spies.
(cited in Riordan 1993: 27)
On top of which Stalin had been strongly opposed to Soviet participation in the Olympics. The dialogue among IOC members highlighted their fundamental suspicion of communist societies just as the USSR's military power, development of nuclear technology, and expansion into Eastern Europe, proved to be catalysts for the intense political and ideological rivalry known as the Cold War. An IOC Executive Committee Member, Colonel P. W. Scharoo, reported in November 1947 that the highly organised system for sport in the USSR was being used for nationalist purposes by the government. His derisive comments reflected an emerging popular stereotype, 'In Russia nobody is free and independent. Individuals are only numbers in the state' (cited in Riordan 1993: 28). Indeed, the discursive construction of a polarised world of opposing cultures and politics was reinforced in March of that same year in the American President Harry Truman's speech to Congress on the threat of communism that included the following:
At the present moment in world history nearly every nation must choose between alternative ways of life. The choice is too often not a free one. One way of life is based upon the will of the majority ... The second is based upon the will of a minority forcibly imposed upon the majority. It relies upon terror and oppression, a controlled press and radio, fixed elections and the suppression of personal freedoms.
(Truman 1955, cited in Saunders 1999: 25)
Brundage fell in line with this, 'According to Communist philosophy, every person and everything is subservient to the State' (cited in Riordan 1993: 29). He remained suspicious of Soviet 'shamateurism', the puritanical and regimented nature of their sports, and the explicit connection made between sport and national prestige (Hoberman 1992: 194). Nonetheless, the IOC could not deny the USSR entry because such a decision would contradict their determination to keep politics out of sport. The u-turn among the Soviets was prompted by a number of factors, including the opportunity to assert the success of their political ideology on the most salient of all international stages. In return for his acquiescence, however, Stalin was sent a 'special note' to 'guarantee victory' by the Chairman of the government Committee on Physical Culture and Sport, Nikolai Romanov (Riordan 1993: 26). The full weight of the Soviet hierarchy was behind sport now, and that meant a systematic application of doping medicine and science to the problem of achieving excellence and, more pertinently, gaining supremacy over the USA and its allies.
Given this, it is understandable that the bodybuilder Samuel Fussell attributed Zeigler's development of steroids to the 'interest of national prestige' (cited in Fair 1993: 2). There is no doubt American sports physicians from the 1950s through to the late 1970s (at least) made the connection between politics and doping: defeat in athletic competition to the communists had to be avoided at all costs, drugs were seen as protecting American values and freedoms (Goldman et al. 1984). However, even when Zeigler approached weightlifters in 1959 for further experimentation, the athletes were wary it would disrupt their training for the 1960 Olympic Games. Bob Hoffman, then coach to the American squad and editor of
Strength and Health magazine, was initially reluctant to take part because he failed to see the potential of Zeigler's testosterone. But he returned from the European Championships in May 1960 with more suspicions about Soviet use of drugs. By the mid 1960s, John Grimek was again trying testosterone and had helped recruit weightlifters, Bill March and Tony Garcy, to take part in further experiments. The results were inconclusive but Hoffman had been persuaded to give a select few of the Olympic lifters doses of steroids during the 1960 Games 'with no knowledge of appropriate timing of doses' (Fair 1993: 7). The results were unclear, and even after the Games athletes remained sceptical of the power of these little pills to produce significant improvements in performance (Fair 1993).
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Bodybuilding is the process of developing muscle fibers through various techniques. It is achieved through muscle conditioning, weight training, increased calorie intake, and resting your body as it repairs and heals itself, before restarting your workout routine.