Doping and sports - 1890-1899


Japanese chemist Nagayoshi Nagai (1844-1924) synthesized methamphetamine, the first amphetamine derivative.


The 'athleticization' of testicle extracts came pretty soon after Brown-Sequard's first report. In 1894 the Austrian physiologist Oskar Zoth (1864-1933) and the Austrian chemist Fritz Pregl (1869-1930) examined the effects of these extracts on muscle strength. Although Zoth concluded that these 'orchid' extracts improved muscle strength, it is highly unlikely that they had therapeutic or ergogenic effects beyond the strength of the suggestion. In the final sentence of his publication from 1896 he nevertheless delivered a chilling prediction about the use of anabolic hormones in the sport of the twentieth century:

"The training of athletes offers an opportunity for further research in this area and for the practical assessment of our experimental results."


Some French companies have publicized their products 'l'Elixir de vitesse' and 'Vélo Guignolet', which were made on the basis of cocaine and morphine.


The promoters of New York promised Teddy Hale (1864-1911) five thousand dollars if he would win their six-day event. The Irishman did so, but when he finally reached the finish as white as a corpse, he was applauded by the crowd, but stoned as he was, he drove another ten kilometers without realizing what he was doing. The day before he had delusions, at a certain moment he stepped off the bike and with fear in his eyes he shouted that there was a program to knock him over.


British cyclist Arthur Linton(1868-1896) won in 1896 the 560 kilometer cycling race Bordeaux-Paris. After that victory, he still contested matches in London and Paris, but he had to give up because of illness. Two months after his victory, he died a mysterious death according to a lot of rumors about the consequences of mass doping. As a cause of death, typhus has been reported, but an overdose of 'tri-methyl', a combination of caffeine and ether, is closer to the truth.


In England, Choppy Warburton (1859-1897) died at the age of 52. The Lancashire Family History Society described him as follows:

"Choppy is identified as the instigator of drug use in cycling in the 19th century."

Warburton was banned from sports in 1896 after unproven claims about massive doping use in Bordeaux-Paris. His activities would have contributed to the early death of Arthur Linton (1872-1896), Tom Linton (1876-1914) and Jimmy Michael (1877-1904). In the photo Warburton poses with his three disciples. He went down in history as the most eccentric cycling coach of all time, a long, slender and strange appearance with a beautiful mustache, long dark cloak and bowler hat, which made him look awful. Opinions about him were divided, some considered him a modern trainer, for others he was a cunning manager and unscrupulous poison mixer. He himself had started with athletics during his youth and he lasted for thirty years. When a cycling track was built in Manchester, he started on coaching young cycling talents. In his long overcoat with numerous inner pockets, all kinds of remedies were hidden, and his inseparable bag also contained innumerable bottles filled with unknown substances. At that time, laudanum, cocaine, arsenic, strychnine, caffeine and nitroglycerin were just available in the local pharmacy, the pharmacist only wanted to know what the drug was supposed to serve and then wrote it down in his poison book. Choppy boasted about everyone who wanted to hear:

"I barely coach four cyclists, but three of them are world champions."

Besides the mentioned Jimmy Michael and the brothers Arthur and Tom Linton he also coached the French rider Amélie le Gall. In 1896 the Breton established the world record 100 kilometers for women in the London Aquarium, Westminster and in Paris she won the first World Cup for women that same year. Usually Amelie stayed in the English capital, where she took the stage name Lisette Marton and became a real celebrity. On the cycling track she often rode against men and she competed in the six days of Westminster and Paris.