Performance Enhancing Drug and Anabolic Steroid Use In The Ancient World
The use of performance enhancing drugs is by no means anything new to athletics or even to society in general. The modern medical and scientific advantages to the use of performance enhancing drugs have merely changed the methods and manner by which athletes utilize substances to enhance performance, making it all more efficient and effective – an exact science. But the use of these substances are nothing new to us, and this can easily be seen by looking back into ancient history as far back as several thousand years ago.
The very first use of anabolic steroids in sports and athletics can be dated back almost two thousand years in ancient Greece. Other instances of anabolic steroid use have occurred throughout history, notably in ancient Rome as well, but none was more prevalent than in the ancient Greek Olympic Games. Well documented historical records state that it was prior to and during the ancient Greek Olympic Games that these ancient athletes would consume massive quantities of sheep and bull testicles . The end result was a vast increase in performance, specifically in the areas of strength, speed, and muscular size. The athletes who engaged in the consumption of sheep and bull testes did not understand the true mechanics of what was occurring due to their dietary habits, of course, but they did understand that there happened to be a direct correlation between the consumption of sheep and bull testes and the increase in athletic ability and performance. The real truth was that it was the anabolic steroid hormones within the testes, Testosterone, which had been consumed in mass quantities – enough to provide a noticeable positive change – that had been responsible for the assistance in their performance increases!
Performance enhancing drug use outside of the arena of anabolic steroids has also been a frequent and very common endeavor of athletes for a very long time as well. As a matter of fact, the use of other substances and compounds that are not anabolic steroids has been more frequent and more common than anabolic steroid use itself, although this is only limited to the time period prior to the modern development of anabolic steroids. Various herbs and foods believed to enhance athletic performance has been a commonplace practice for as long as sport has existed in human history. The true nature of many of these herbs and foods was that the active ingredients within that played a role in performance enhancement was that of stimulants, hormones, vitamins, and various other different compounds and substances contained within. Of course, once again, this was unknown to these athletes at the time. It was not until modern medicine and modern scientific investigational methods in the late 19th century that humans understood what exactly it was contained within these items that had such profound effects. For example, historical records note that the winner of the 480BC Olympic Games stated that his diet consisted of 100% meat for a period of 10 months straight prior to the Olympic Games . We can see how this would have had a significant impact, as meats (red meat in particular) contains high amounts of the different B vitamins, and also contains high levels of Creatine, which has been proven to increased athletic performance in some areas to a certain extent. Ancient Greek athletes were also known to eat figs under the belief that they would assist in the growth of muscle and improve stamina, which had been based upon the ancient Greek religious and mythological figure Hercules who was said to have made figs a staple in his diet. One other practice among ancient Greek athletes was that of getting drunk from wine “once or twice”, because it was believed to heal muscle aches2. Of course, many of these practices and beliefs would today be labeled as pseudoscientific hogwash based upon flawed reasoning and logic, as the ancient Greeks had no scientific basis for any of the claims that these protocols worked. Some of them indeed did work, perhaps for reasons different from what they had believed at the time, and others just plain did not work.
But this brings us to one major theme and point here that must be made: The fact that the use of performance enhancing substances due to the win-at-any-cost attitude was commonplace, and very widely accepted – it was in fact a trait among individuals that was highly sought after! It was actually expected of ancient athletes (as well as warriors and soldiers) to adopt this notion and attitude of winning at any cost and to utilize performance enhancing substances of any sort to do so. These same values were held very high by the society of the time. In comparison to our society today, this can be seen as being quite the drastic difference in the values held by society then and the values held by society now – but one thing is for certain: there is no difference between the values held by the ancient athletes when compared to the values held by today’s modern athletes. The majority of people today in our modern society tend to look upon anabolic steroid and performance enhancing drug use as something immoral, unholy, and unacceptable, and that sports and athletics should be performed ‘naturally’ with the human body in the conditions as it exists with no assistance from any substances. On the contrary, the notion among ancient Greek and Roman society was one where the exact opposite was encouraged, promoted, and valued highly – and of course, the attitudes of the athletes of the time was the exact same. Today we see a society (for the most part) that shuns, discourages, and crushes these values, but our modern athletes do not share this same sentiment and have more in common with the attitudes of ancient Greek and Roman athletes as we will soon discover.
Where the ancient Olympics are concerned, the rewards and prizes for being the winner were much more scarce than they are today in our modern sports and Olympic Games. In comparison to what our modern athletes receive as prize and reward, ancient athletes received almost nothing – no medals were presented to the winners, motivation for competing at their best was not for enjoyment of the games or ‘fun’, nor did they compete for personal pride. The big number one driving factor among the ancient athletes that is held in common with our modern athletes is: public mass fame, glory, prestige, and money! Ancient Greek Olympic athletes received 1,200 days of pay as a prize reward for winning an event . In comparison to today’s modern athletes, this is absolutely no different. The major burning motivating force for today’s modern athletes is the exact same motivating force for the ancient Greek and Roman athletes of thousands of years ago, and this is of course the primary motivating force behind the drive for athletes to utilize any substance, compound, food, or herb known to enhance athletic performance in order to achieve that increased edge in order to win. It is through the excessively large and highly attractive salaries, contracts, and sponsorships that provide the intense motivation to accommodate the same win-at-any-cost attitude that the ancient athletes also possessed. This, in turn, is what creates the allure for our modern athletes to seek and use anabolic steroids and performance enhancing substances in order to win and obtain these highly sought after prizes. The compounds and substances used in today’s modern age for performance enhancement have come a very long way from that which was used for the same purpose in ancient Rome and Greece. The performance enhancing substances of the modern age today not only provide significant assistance in enhancing athletic performance, but also hold the ability to heal injury to a significant extent, strengthen against possible future injury, and therefore allow the athletes to recover quicker and get back out in the ring, on the track, on the rink, or out in the field faster following injury.
Performance Enhancing Drugs In Modern Sport Not Including Anabolic Steroids
Anabolic steroids were never the only substances utilized in sports and athletics to enhance performance, and in fact many other substances were used vastly long before anabolic steroids as we know them today in their modern use were used for the first time. The first obvious substances to be used were compounds categorized as stimulants. Many different types of stimulants have been known to increase performance, and more so in the immediate sense (meaning that the benefits are seen shortly after administration whereas anabolic steroids require weeks of administration before results are seen). Caffeine, for example, is known to have performance enhancing qualities through its stimulant effects among other attributes. Other stronger stimulants, such as Cocaine and Amphetamines, have been well understood to enhance performance. Thomas Hicks is one such example of an athlete who won the gold medal in the Olympic marathon of 1904. Hicks had consumed a combination of Brandy, Cocaine, and Strychnine in order to assist him in achieving his victory. It is well known, though, that this cocktail had caused him to at one point collapse and almost die, whereby he had to be revived by a medical team. When all was said and done, however, Hicks ended up being the number one winner of the 1904 marathon. It is also well known that Cocaine was frequently used among baseball players in the late 1800s and early 1900s during baseball games. Athletes had experimented with other stimulants around this period as well, such as the use of Nitroglycerine by Olympic sprinters in an effort to induce blood vessel dilation during events. Dextroamphetamines were also a commonly used stimulant used by marathon runners and sprinters. Note that the use of all of these substances were at a point in history long before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) brought drug testing policies into effect as well as testing procedures. During this time, the use of many different substances and stimulants for the purpose of performance enhancement was quite widespread among athletes, and was widely accepted. Society in general thought nothing negative of this behavior, and it was regarded as quite normal activity.