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Chapter 2



Table of Contents

Steroids Timeline

As mentioned in chapter 1, performance-enhancing substances (concoctions may be a better term) have been in use since antiquity. Early individuals with predilection towards scientific endeavors have recognized the biological effects of steroids, particularly testosterone, even before the invention of tools that could precisely identify these hormones. Since antiquity primitive peoples have consumed the testes of their hunt, as a symbolic and possibly biologic way of absorbing the animal's strength, prowess and libido.

No single individual could claim that he is the first one to discover testosterone or the concept of steroids and sex hormones. The developments in this science have come through the disjointed efforts of many enterprising (and curious) individuals or groups and, as with many other scientific discoveries, you could not exactly tell who first shouted “Eureka!”. The following paragraphs show how time ticked for (and how people's imagination got tickled by) testosterone and synthetic steroids.

For the purpose of this book, we start with the first significant breakthrough of modern science and stop just short of Arnold and pop culture...

1767 – John Hunter has performed testicular transplantation primarily to learn the techniques of tissue transplantation. In his experiments, he transferred the testis of a cock into the abdominal cavity of a hen. From the notes taken at his lectures, it was reported that the testis adhered to peritoneum but no remarkable systemic change was noticed on the recipient.

1849 – The experiment which many considered has the most definitive significance to the modern versions of performance enhancers is the experiment of Arnold Adolph Berthold with castrated cockerels. In this experiment, Berthold has found out that removal of testis from the cockerels caused loss of characteristic features normally found in these birds. Through his experiments several negative effects were noticed – comb and wattle regression, loss of color, and loss of sexual function. However, when he transplanted the testis to the abdominal cavity, he noted that such effects did not occur. And through his transplantation experiments he concluded the following:

  • Testicles are responsible for secondary male sexual characteristics, functioning and other such processes that are connected with the genital system.
  • That the mechanism of action for sexual-oriented characteristics is not via the nervous system as earlier believed.
  • That the testis have a remarkable influence on the blood while the blood, in turn, affects the entire system of the organism.

1889 – Another significant contribution to the discovery of testosterone-based drugs occurred on this year. Chales-Edouard Brown-Sequard, fondly referred to as 'the old coot' by steroid researchers, has come up with a concoction which is considered as the first known artificially-produced substance that contains testosterone. This substance is a testicular extract from dogs and guinea pigs.

On June 1, 1889, this 79-year-old psychologist and neurologist has reported before the Societe de Biologie in Paris that he carried out auto-experimentation. He told the gathering that he had injected himself with his 'liquide testiculair' and stated that it has greatly improved his physical strength, intellectual processes, and appetite.

Although his claim was never proven to be true, it became the springboard for researches exploring the field of organotherapy. Organotherapy, or glandular therapy, uses specific animal tissues and cell preparations to improve physiologic functioning and to support the natural healing process. Around that time organotherapy was a medical alternative to treat various diseases such as epilepsy, anemia, Addison's disease, diabetes, among others.

Brown-Sequard was the son of a Philadelphia seaman and his mother was of a Mauritian-French descent. In 1856, his extirpation (removal) of the adrenal glands in animals was considered a milestone in the scientific community back then. Through these experiments he became convinced that the endocrine glands – testes, pancreas, liver, adrenal, kidneys,thyroid gland, and spleen – contained secretions that could cure various diseases.

1902 – At the turn of the 20th century, the field of endocrinology was fast emerging as researchers vigorously experimented on these 'internal secretions'. Two professors from the Department of Physiology at University College in London, namely Ernest Starling and William Bayliss, extracted a curious substance from the duodenal mucosa which they initially called 'secretin'. They found out that when this substance was injected, it stimulated water and bicarbonate secretion by a denervated pancreas.

It looked like Staring and Bayliss had arrived at the same conclusion as Brown-Sequard, that it was chemical secretion that has caused the physiological effects rather than nervous control. Also, the professors observed that these 'blood borne messengers' might be responsible for many other systemic functions. The professors decided to call these substances as 'chemical messengers'. But a Cambridge physiologist by the name of William B. Hardy suggested the name 'hormone', a Greek word that translated to “I arouse to activity” during his visit to the professors' lab. On June 20, 1905, Starling first used the term 'hormone' during his lecture at the Royal College of Physicians also in London. Hormone made its first printed appearance on August 5, 1905 when Starling's lecture was printed in the The Lancet.

1920s – On this decade were also equally significant events in the development of synthetic steroids. Viennese physiologist Eugen Steinach explored the rejuvenating benefits of vasoligation in older animals. In 1920, he found out that the unilateral vasoligation of the ductus deferens resulted to heightened hormonal production after the gonads ceased their secretory output.

Paul Niehans, a Swiss genitourinary surgeon, researched heavily on testicular secretions. He reported that injection of testicular cells increased the long-term excretion of testosterone derivatives. It's interesting to know that his patients have included Pope Pius XII, Aristotle Onassis, and Bernard Baruch.

Serge Abrahamovitch Voronoff grafted testis from animals to men, but effectiveness of the results was disproved by the Royal Society of Medicine in 1927. he was a French surgeon of Russian origin who gained the ridicule of his peers because of his transplantation of monkeys' testicular tissues on human testicles. In 1999, decades after his death controversies still hounded hum, when he was blamed for the transfer of AIDS to the human population because of his experimentation in France in the 1920's to the 1930's. This claim was not substantiated.

His book entitled Rejuvenation by Grafting has clearly stated his goal in doing such experimentations. He believed the following would be achieved: better sex drive, better memory, endurance, better eyesight, prolonging of life, and even schizophrenia.

Also occurring in 1920's was what considered to be the first organized and sustained study on sex hormones. This initiative was led by Fred C. Koch, a professor of physiologic chemistry at the Chicago University, under the sponsorship of the Squibb Pharmaceuticals. This has somewhat revived what Brown-Sequard has started. The research was considered a success since it became the first scientifically verifiable investigation of a male sex hormone. In the research, Koch and his team had a mixture made from bull testicles which was injected into castrated roosters on a daily basis for a period of two weeks. The treatment was proven to be effective in remasculinizing the recipients.

1930s – With the gaining popularity of organotherapy pharmaceutical companies – particularly Schering (Berlin, Germany), Ciba (Basel, Switzerland), and Organon (Oss, Netherlands) – have opened up the field for a competitive race for the isolation of testicular hormone. Three research teams, as backed by the above companies, were the front-runners.

A chemistry student at University of Marburg with a doctorate at the University of Gottinggen named Adolf Butenandt explored the potentials of sex hormones. Butenandt was influenced by his professor, Aor Windaus. In 1929, Butenandt already made a breakthrough when he isolated the first pure sex hormone estrone. Later on, another accomplishment in his career took place when he isolated 15 mg. of a pure substance from an 'immense quantity of policemen urine'. He identified this substance as androsterone in conjunction with the Schering pharmaceutical company. He presented his discovery on October 23, 1931 in Hamburg.

In 1934, the structure of androsterone was further confirmed by Leopold Ruzicka, a chemist in Zurich, when he purified the hormone from cholesterol.

The so-called Amsterdam group of Karoly Gyula David, E. Dingemanse, J. Freud and Ernst Laqueur identified a testicular hormone for the first time. Backed by the Dutch pharmaceutical company, Organon, the team purified the hormone from bull testes and gave it the name testosterone. They published 'On Crystalline Male Hormone from Testicles (Testosterone)” in May 1935.

Testosterone's chemical synthesis has come about in August 1935 through the efforts of Butenandt and G. Hanisch, as funded by Schering Corporation, when they published a paper describing “A Method for Preparing Testosterone from Cholesterol.” And then just a week after the paper's publication, the Ciba group of Ruzicka came up with “On the Artificial Preparation of the Testicular Hormone Testosterone (Androsten-3-one-17-ol) which appeared on Helvetica Chimica Acta. They applied for a patent. Butenandt and Ruzicka were co-winners of 1939 Nobel Prize for chemistry – Butenandt for his work on sex hormones and Ruzicka for polymethylenes and higher terpenes.

Other noteworthy events concerning the development of anabolic steroids are the following:

  • Androstenedione was first synthesised in 1935 and in 1936 Charles Kochakian discovered that it has both androgenic and anabolic properties. His discovery, however, was not followed through until the 1960's.
  • The earliest known reference to anabolic steroids was in 1938 in Strength and Health, a US weightlifting and bodybuilding publication. In the magazine testosterone propionate is mentioned in a letter to the editor.
  • Important to mention here also are the gonadal concoctions which became a craze during this era, and have played a role in the development of synthetic steroids. The crude (by today's standards) gonadal preparations were of questionable effectiveness but they became popular over-the-counter formulations. Among the most popular versions were of the physician Henry Harrower's Gonad Tablet. It allegedly contained the following formulation: 0.25 grams of adrenal; 0.50 grams of thyroid; 1 gram of pituitary, and 1.5 grams of prostate and Leydig cell extracts. For effectiveness, the label advised it was to be taken 3 to 8 times a day.

1940s – Although the initial and primary use of testosterone was to treat hypogonadism in males, it has been experimented on and utilized for other purposes. Suddenly, steroids were considered as panacea in this decade, Infertility, anemia, sexual dysfunction, bone disorders were just some of the conditions testosterone and other anabolic steroids were indicated for. In the late 1940s, testosterone was called the 'anti-aging wonder'.

Further, testosterone use in the world of sports was first reported at the start of this decade to enhance athlete's performance. And as mentioned on Chapter 1, steroids use was documented during the Second World War on German soldiers and prisoners of war.

1950s – The first anabolic steroid 19-nortestosterone (nandrolone) was synthesized. It was considered three to five times more potent than testosterone. In 1954, the 'success story' of the athletes of the former Soviet Union and East Germany has paved the way for widespread use of steroids in the sporting world.

To prove power of communism, the former Soviet Union and East Germany showcased their strength, both literally and figuratively, through their respective athletes in 1954. In the World Championships in Vienna the world watched in awe as the powerful and seemingly oversized athletes dominated powerlifting and strength sports. This is how John Ziegler entered the scene.

Ziegler was a physician accompanying the US weightlifting team in Vienna. Apparently, he was able to make USSR team doctor to talk at a local tavern, probably over mugs of beer. Ziegler was able to coax out of the doctor of the Russians' secret weapon – testosterone. Ans so to counter the onslaught of the competitors Ziegler collaborated with the Ciba drug company and came up with Dianabol (methandrostenolone), considered to be the second anabolic steroid produced. In 1958, Dianabol was approved for the use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration.

Steroids History in Perspective

It is in the nature of man (and woman) to find out things that could better his existence. The exploring mind and the dexterous hands find ways to patch up problems. Man experiences sickness, he tries to find cures to make the sickness go away. He experiments on living things he finds around him – plants, animals – to find a solution. Then later on, he searches within himself to learn about his own body and its ability to compensate for its own inadequacies – this, the discovery of testosterone and its curative potentials.

Most scientific inventions and breakthroughs share one common denominator – they all want to make things better for humans. From the simple lever and pulley, to the abacus, to motorized vehicles, to the computer – they aim to make life easier. From your history lesson above, testosterone is discovered and then later on synthesized because of several reasons, primary of which is the aim to better man's well-being.

There is, however, a sad chapter to this history. There is no new interest shown on most of these drugs. This is despite the fact that steroids have been around and prescribed for several decades now. Compared to the enthusiasm exhibited in the isolation and synthesis of these hormones, specifically in the 1930's, the current stance if the scientific community on steroids is lackluster, to say the least.

Why it has come to this?

The quick response to that is because of the more contemporary events that shook the steroids industry. The early part of the 1990's has witnessed tumultuous tales of steroids with the classification of steroids as controlled substances by the Americans in 1991. As a consequence, more stringent policies are now in effect world-wide. In the American Controlled Substances Act anabolic steroids are defined as 'any drug or hormonal substance, chemically and pharmacologically related to testosterone (other than estrogens, progestins, and corticosteroids) that promotes muscle growth'. They are as listed below:

  • boldenone
  • chlorotestosterone
  • clostebol
  • dehydrochlormethyltestosterone
  • dihydrochlormethyltestosterone
  • dihydrotestosterone
  • drostanolone
  • ethylestrenol
  • fluoxymesterone
  • formebulone
  • mesterolone
  • methandienone
  • methandranone
  • methandriol
  • methandrostenolone
  • methenolone
  • methyltestosterone
  • mibolerone
  • nandrolone
  • norethandrolone
  • oxandrolone
  • oxymesterone
  • oxymetholone
  • stanolone
  • stanozol
  • testolactone
  • testosterone
  • trenbolone
  • any salt, ester, or isomer of a drug or substance described or listed in this paragraph, if that salt, ester, or isomer promotes muscle growth

Further amendment on this Act in 2004 added previously legal prohormones to the list of controlled substances.

As a result of this stricter attitude against steroids, pharmaceutical laboratories ceased manufacture and/or marketing operations of their products in the United States. Notable of these companies are Cibe, Searle and Syntex. Thus, currently there is an absence of further financial and scientific investment on these drugs and, as a dismal consequence, no new types or forms of steroids are emerging. No further research also to make these compounds safer to make both physicians and patients comfortable in the use of steroids in therapy. This resulted to some sort of a status quo in most of today's anabolic steroids.

Here are recent events that kind of drive home the point of the American federal government's restrictive policy on steroids.

In September 2007 'Operation Raw Deal' culminated with 124 arrests and seizure of 56 steroids and human growth hormones labs in the US. This 18-month long international investigation is considered the largest anabolic steroid operation in US history. It involved several regions across the globe including Canada, Mexico, Australia, Germany, Thailand, Belgium and China. There were over 25 Chinese companies targeted which were suspected of providing raw steroid powder to underground manufacturers. Genescience Pharmaceutical and its chief executive officer were also indicted in connection with the operation. Genescience was a Chinese corporation accused of smuggling of human growth hormone (Jintropin) into the US and human growth hormone compounds to underground. Remember Stallone's case? He was reportedly carrying Jintropin HGH in his luggage on Sydney airport.

More recent news happened on March 21 2008 when two British nationals were arrested in Pattaya resort in Thailand. Their crime? Using the Internet for illegally exporting steroids to the United States. Ashly Vincent Livingston and Edwin Richard Crawley were apprehended by the joint forces of the United States' DEA and Thai police. These two individuals were considered to be two of the best-known and most successful Internet sources of anabolic steroids. Crawley was one of the founders of British Dragon Pharmaceuticals and Livingston was known as Redicat among steroids users. Redicat's paper orals were sought after by users. Paper orals, which reportedly originated from Thailand, are just one of many types of steroids being peddled by suppliers.

In the countries where it is illegal, movements for the decriminalization of non-medical use of steroid are being sporadically carried out. And in the meantime, consumers of anabolic steroids have no choice but to buy from black market sources. Staunch critics of the classification of steroids as controlled substances say this would further drive the industry deeper in the underground.

Tips on Getting 'Test'

It is important to know the legal perils that come with pursuing a lifestyle involving steroid use. You must be aware of the laws in your own country, in order to avoid fines or jail time. Again, be informed about this aspect of steroids use – the legal issues. You can get anabolic steroids over the counter; that is, if you're in Mexico, Costa Rica, Dubai or some other countries in which prescription rules are not heavily enforced. In the United States, where they are considered as controlled substances, you need to have a prescription, and since the chances of your getting one are slim. Steroid users wanting to live in the states, need to consider the legal ramifications of their lifestyle choices.

For some bodybuilders, going online is a convenient way of acquiring steroids nowadays. Trading online can be quite simple – all the Bodybuilder need to do is click on the mouse and follow through some money transfers. Then wait for a few days of maybe a week then there it is, your package sitting at your doorstep. Of course, there are also the risks.

First, if you live in a country where steroids are illegal, and your package gets caught by the authorities, you can expect authorities knocking at your doorstep with some questions.

Second, you need not fear the first because your package is not arriving in the first place. This is because the Net is full of legit and scam artists. Your best alternative is to ask around and get informed.

Third, you can get a counterfeited product and this means you're getting products that contain no or only minute amounts of active ingredients. This is the number one worry of steroid advocates. Because the trade is illegal in some countries, there is no control whatsoever over this activity in those nations. Consequently, products are almost always of dubious quality.

The so-called bootleg anabolics do look like the legit versions but may neither have the same ingredients nor the right strength. Take for example Dianabol (methandrostenolone) which has been discontinued by Ciba, its original manufacturer, for more than a decade now. Dbol now has several counterfeited versions and users have no way of knowing if a version is a safe buy or not, until it is used. There has been a recent study that sampled three 'methadrostenolone' products. The results? One has methyltestosterone and another contained caffeine. The third one has no active ingredients at all, as in zero and zilch. Chemical substitution, cutting and/or diluting are just some of the means used by illegal outfits, and these can really imperil your health as a user.

There is also the issue of veterinary steroids as many users now resort to other avenues such as vet clinics to get their supply. Steroids indicated for animal use, have also been widely used as physical and performance boosters by human. In horse steroids for example, the two most commonly used drugs Winstrol V (stanozolol) and Equipoise (boldenone). Both of these brands are also popular with human users. And because they are developed for animals there have been no in-depth studies on the dosage, effects, and other pertinent concerns when taking in by humans. Most Bodybuilders who chose to go this route, will just use the Veterinarian preparation the same as they would one made for humans.

An additional problem with the illicit trade is that most of the drugs being sold today are produced without the sophisticated equipment and pharmaceutical processes required in the manufacture of these compounds. What you're getting may have been made and handled in less sterile circumstances than if the product had been made under a licensed and government inspected laboratory.

Steroid Sources

Anabolic Steroids manufactured by European pharmaceutical companies, are the source of most medical grade anabolic steroids being sold in Asia, North and South America. European Union and Eastern European countries like Poland, Bulgaria and Romania are steady sources of these substances.

Organon, the Dutch pharmaceutical company, produces Deca Durabolin in 1 and 2 ml ampules. The Zambon Company in Spain boasts of oral and injectable forms of stanozolol under the brand name Winstrol.

And since anabolics became controlled substances in the US, Mexican steroids have become alternatives for US-based consumers. Ever heard of Nogales, Arizona? The Mexican side of the Nogales is dubbed as the 'Pill City' by the media for obvious reasons. Shopping for steroids at farmacias dotting its streets is easy; however, getting your purchase across the border is not that easy. Plus, most of the products are of veterinary-grade anabolic steroids.

In Asia, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand is in the forefront of steroids industry. Local pharmaceutical companies in Thailand have brands like Anabol Tablets and Methandon, which contained the substance methandrostenolone. Pakistan, India, Turkey and Korea are also countries in the region where you can find steroid preparations. China, of course, is a known source of raw ingredients for steroids that can be traced on labs across the world. There is one thing to remember, most of these places are teeming with scammers. Thailand is full of fake steroids which contain rat poison, and Chinese powder suppliers scam Americans by sending glutamine powders (best case) or straight dry paint thinner (worst case).

Likewise, varying brand names of methandienone tablets are manufactured in Poland, Russia, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania.

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Lev Butlerov holds a Masters Degree in Biology, he is NASM Certified, ISSA Certified, The National Council on Strength & Fitness (NCSF) certified and is currently working on his American Council on Exercise (ACE) certificate. From Lev: I love bodybuilding and the biology, chemistry of the industry. It's my hobby and my love. I have done multiple bodybuilding shows, 2 in Germany in the past 5 years. I hope everyone enjoys my articles. In 2021 (going into 2022, 2023) I will be working on my PhD thesis in physiotherapy and biochemistry, I hope to have some of the bits published here.

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