Doping and sports - The Beginning

In this contribution we outline the history of the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports.

The beginning

Strictly speaking, the first case of doping would have occurred in the Court of Eden, when Adam and Eve tasted the forbidden fruit in order to gain divine powers.

The Chinese chewed the herb Ma Huang or sea grape in 5,000 BC, because of its stimulatory action by the natural ephedrine it contains,.

To increase their stamina during long marches, the Arabs chewed young Qat twigs (Catha Edulis).

Doping has been taken since the dawn of time. For centuries, the Indians of the Andean mountain chewed cocoa leaves or drank cocoa tea to improve their stamina or to protect themselves from altitude sickness. By chewing coca their breathing and oxygen exchange is improived and it also regulates the glucose consumption.

The Tarahumara indians from the North of Mexico used peyote for their running competitions, which lasted several days and were part of the fertility ritual. Peyote has the same effects as Strychnine. The Lophophora williamsii, peyote or peyotl is a small thorny spherical cactus that grows in the south of the United States and in Mexico and is known for its large amount of psychoactive alkaloids with mescaline-like effects that can lead to hallucinations.

The Australian Aborigines ate the Pituri plant because of its stimulating effect. The leaves contain nicotine, scopolamine and hyosciamines, giving a stimulating, euphoric, antispasmodic and analgesic effect.

Distant past

Doping is by no means a modern concept. According to Norwegian mythology, the use of reinforcing remedies was found among the Berserkers, strong Norwegian warriors who dressed in bear's skins, which they had killed personnaly. They went to battle nude and to improve their performance and to feel no pain, they gave took Bufotenin, a deadly alkaloid taken from the skin of toads, and Amanita mushrooms, causing them to go into ecstasy.


During their religious ceremonies, the members of the South African Kaffer tribe used a primitive stimulating drink, which they called "dop". The 'dop' of the Zulu warriors was an alcoholic drink brewed from grape peel and cola.

During running or walking contests in West Africa, the use of Cola Accuminata, a nut containing 2% catechin / caffeine, was very normal.

Ancient times

In ancient times people learned about the anabolic and androgenic function of the testicles by observing the effects of castration on pets. Moreover people ate the testicles, heart, brain and liver of animals to cure diseases and to promote performance and vitality.