Anabolic steroids were developed in the 1930s, and by the 1970s, they were a staple for athletes around the world. In fact, steroids in sport were quite commonplace for decades. However, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the United States and other countries essentially banned the possession, use, purchase, and sale of steroids without a prescription. Since the 1970s, many athletes have been caught using steroids. Here are just a few examples.
Although there were no real laws against steroids at this point, Tommy Simpson, a British cyclist participating in the Tour de France, died during the 13th stage of the race. It was discovered that Simpson had been using brandy and amphetamines to avoid the complications from a medical condition, and this prompted the Olympics Committee to create and enforce rules about the use of drugs and steroids in sports. It was at this time that the Olympics Committee banned the use of steroids in sport.
In 1988, Ben Johnson, a Canadian sprinter, won the 100-meter dash at the Seoul games. However, he was drug tested later, and these tests revealed that Johnson had used anabolic steroids as a performance enhancer. He was disqualified from the race, but to top it all off, he also lost his world record honors and was stripped of his Olympic medal. Oddly enough, that medal went to Carl Lewis, who admitted that he had used anabolic steroids to set a world record the year before. His world record honors were removed, as well.
In 2003, Sammy Sosa was one of 104 players who tested positive for anabolic steroids in an anonymous survey. While the survey did not identify the exact steroid, it did become the subject of a very long court battle. Sosa is sixth in the world on the MLB’s list of players with the most homeruns; Sosa hit 609 in his career, and all but 64 were hit while he was with the Cubs. Other MLB players accused or implicated in the use of anabolic steroids include Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens.
Though he’s now known more for his acting and political career, Arnold Schwarzenegger was once the quintessential bodybuilder. He’s a former seven-time Mr. Olympia, and as many people suspected all along, he used steroids during his younger years along with diet and rigorous exercise to obtain his record-breaking physique. He admitted this during a 2005 interview with George Stephanopoulos with CBS News, acknowledged using AAS, but claimed he had no regrets because they were legal and socially accepted at the time. His case is probably the most well-documented when it comes to steroid use in sports.
Palmeiro, first baseman for the Baltimore Orioles in 2005, denied using steroids in sport despite many allegations and a congressional hearing in March of that year. He was suspended from the MLB for 10 days in August of 2005 after testing positive for what officials claimed to be a “serious steroid”, and continued to deny his affiliation with AAS throughout his suspension and beyond. In a 2005 book written by Jose Canseco called Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant ‘Roids, Smash Hits & How Baseball Got Big, Canseco admitted to his extensive steroid use and named Palmeiro as a steroid user, as well. Palmeiro says he did receive injections, but these were nothing more than simple vitamin B12.
Bryan Berard was the very first National Hockey League player to test positive for steroids in 2006. Although he barely got a slap on the wrist the first time he got caught, another test in 2008 found steroids in his system yet again. Subsequently, Berard was banned from playing in international games for two years, but he was not debarred from the NHL because the NHL was not responsible for the test.
For most people, the story of Chris Benoit using steroids in sport stands out the most. Many athletes and bodybuilders remember seeing the news; Benoit killed his wife and son before hanging himself. After the autopsy was carried out, it was discovered that Benoit had 10 times the normal amount of testosterone in his body. Nonetheless, the exact correlation between the murder/suicide and the hormones in his body remains unclear.
Most people banned for steroids in sport are men, but Marion Jones is certainly an exception to this rule. She’s one of the very few women busted for using steroids in professional sport, but not before the sprinter achieved five gold medals during the 2000 Olympics. She tested positive for a banned substance (the exact substance is unknown) in 2006, and she admitted to using PEDs the following year. Jones was stripped of her medals and banned from participating in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games as a result.
The name Lance Armstrong was once commonplace in households around the world. He won the Tour de France seven times in a row from 1999 to 2005, which is still a record streak. During his first Tour de France, he tested positive for steroids four times, but he wasn’t suspended because his levels were only slightly elevated. He attributed this to a cream he was using to treat saddle sores. In January 2013, Armstrong admitted to using PEDs (performance enhancing drugs), and was stripped of all seven titles as well as a bronze medal he won during the 2000 Summer Olympics. He was also banned from competition for life.
Alex Rodriguez, more commonly known as A-Rod, was the shining star of the New York Yankees in 2013. However, after testing positive for PEDs during that year, things took a turn for the worst. He was accused of using steroids, and he not only claimed his innocence, but also says he was “victimized” and the subject of a witch hunt. He defiantly denied using steroids – until he was facing federal agents in a conference room in January 2014. At this point, A-Rod came clean, admitting to obtaining PEDs from an anti-aging clinic. Though he was banned by the MLB, his confession and the information he provided kept him safe from prosecution.
Although steroids in sport were once commonplace, these days, all professional athletes are subject to testing. Since 1967, anabolic steroids have been a subject of great controversy, and a number of people have either died or been banned from playing their favorite sports because of it.