Doping and sports - 1850-1869


The American painter George Catlin (1796-1872), who specialized in painting Native Americans in the Old West, described a sort of psychological doping that was praticed by the Choctaw Indians in preparation of a ritual ball game.

From sunset they gathered on a playing field where they implored the favor of the gods with all night long exercises, songs and incantations. Eight hundred to one thousand men took part in this ritual, accompanied with drums and singing by the women. Each dance lasted fifteen minutes, but was repeated every hour. At sunrise the final game started that would last until sunset. The Choctaws therefore remained awake for 24 hours without being exhausted by the rituals.


The first established doping case was noted in 1860 when a cyclist sprinkled ether on a sugar cube.


In 1865, during a swimming competition in the Amsterdam canals, a doping case was recorded with an unspecified performance-enhancing tool.


The boxers from that time used a mix of brandy and cocaine.


The cyclists did not make a secret of their doping use, after the Paris-Rouen race of 1869 the question was raised in the press which products increased performance most effectively.

In the same period, 'le vin Mariani' was recommended to the athletes. The Parisian pharmacist Angelo Mariani (1838-1914) read an article by the Italian physician Paolo Mantegazza (1831-1910), who studied the cocaine use of Indians in Peru. It gave him the idea to develop a tonic based on Bordeaux wine and coca extract, which he marketed under the name 'Vin Mariani'.

The stuff became a huge success, in so far that Pope Leo XIII (1810-1903) handed Mariani a gold medal as a sign of official recognition.

Then Mariani started the largest advertising campaign from the 19th century and became one of the key figures in the Belle Epoque. He published letters in his book 'Album Mariani in which famous users showed their gratitude. He built a factory with laboratory in Neuilly-sur-Seine, followed by a branch in the United States a little later. He used part of his wealth to support artists. He died at the age of 75 and is buried at the famous Parisian cemetery 'Père Lachaise'.