The stimulating effect of amphetamines was recognized and the product was used for the treatment of narcolepsy.
The weekly 'Fußball-Woche' strongly condemned that Ludwig Goldbrunner (1908-1981) and Wilhelm Simetsreiter (1915-2001) as players of the German national team had advertised pharmaceutical products in a brochure from a Munich company. Evidence that there was a slow awareness about the problem of pharmaceutical support for athletes.
Led by chemist Adolf Butenandt (1903-1995), German scientists developed anabolic steroids to treat the testosterone deficiency of hypogonadism. Butenandt later won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, together with the Swiss chemist Leopold Ružicka (1887-1976), for his discovery of sex hormones, but he refused to take the trophy.
Question: doping or not?
Amsterdam-based Jewish-German pharmacologist Ernest Laqueur (1880-1947) extracted a few milligrams of pure hormone, from which he determined exactly the molecular structure and which he called testosterone.
Rumor had it several German athletes received testosterone during the Berlin Olympics. Although the effect of other drugs on the physiology of human performance was well documented in German medical literature, there was no mention in that period of the use of testosterone as ergogenic help.
Benzedrine is a trade name for amphetamine. The Council of Europe claimed that it appeared for the first time in the sport at the Berlin Olympics. In 1887, amphetamine was first manufactured and the derived benzedrine was isolated in the US in 1934. Because of the observed effects it got the street name 'speed'. During World War II, British troops used 72 million tablets of amphetamine and the RAF consumed so much that a report suggested that "Methedrine won the Battle of Britain". The problem was that amphetamine leads to a lack of judgment and risk-taking, which may lead to better performance in sports, but in fighter planes and bombers caused more crash landings than the RAF could accept. The medicine was therefore withdrawn, but large stocks remained on the black market. The proliferation of amphetamine use in athletes went fairly quickly, from spontaneous confessions of doctors, trainers, coaches, athletes and from autopsy reports showed that they were common in motorsport, basketball, baseball (even in children), boxing, canoeing, cycling, football, golf, mountaineering, Roller Derby, rodeo, rugby, skating, skiing, football, squash, swimming, tennis, table tennis, athletics, weightlifting and wrestling.
Swiss Professor of Sports Medicine Gottfried Schönholzer (1911-1979) published 'Frage des Doping', the first book on that subject.
In 1937, the participants of the first 'Sportärztlichen Zentralkurses von Bern-Jungfraujoch' agreed to take sanctions against doped athletes, but this was not reinforced.
In one of his studies, American psychiatrist Charles Bradley (1902-1979) provided Benzedrine to children with behavioral problems, on which their disorders improved. He resumed that study in 1941 and both studies are considered to be the founders of psychopharmacotherapy in children.
In the early years of the Tour de France, strychnine was the strongest and most commonly used drug. In addition, the cyclists took all they could get to survive the boredom, the pain and the exhaustion during journeys of more than 300 km. The use of alcohol was also prominent in French culture. There are photos of cyclists holding ether-soaked handkerchiefs on their mouths, which softened the pain in their legs. French sports journalist Pierre Chany (1922-1996) noted that only the smell turned your stomach around and that this discouraged some, but also showed a form of suffering in others.
French Tour 1937 winner Roger Lapébie (1911-1996) claimed after his arrival that he had sniffed ether in a forest.
Ether was indeed sniffed out of a bottle that was called a topette. It was used for years and even in 1963 riders were caught.
Swiss Karl Litschi (1912-1999) started his cycling career in 1936 and immediately became second in the national championship. The following year he won the title fight plus a stage in the Tour of Switzerland. Until then, it had all been done purely, but when he was in second place before the final stage of Paris-Nice, his sports director advised him to 'take something' to win the final victory. Later the Swiss confessed that he had used strychnine, a substance that was not yet forbidden.
Berlin-based pharmaceutical company Temmler-Werke brought the metamphetamine Pervitin on the market in 1938. Until 1941, the product could be obtained in the pharmacy without a prescription. The 'Stuka-Tablets' or 'Hermann-Goering-Pills', as they were popularly called, were consumed massively and at high doses at the outbreak of the Second World War.
The use of doping was widespread and well known. A new product came up, the phosphate Recreasagent was tested during the war with positive results on soldiers and mountaineers and in cattle food. Thus, phosphates, caffeine, theobromine were considered acceptable. But the athletes also took strychnine and cocaine. Miracles were reported on cola nuts, the combination of cocaine with cola nuts was also very popular. Oxygen also came up again and was used in the six days and in swimming, but unanimously described as prohibited doping. Strychnine was spread far and wide, Swiss journalist Hans Peter Born (1938) reported this in this in his book 'Those were the days':
"In cycling, strychnine enjoyed great popularity in the interbellum period, and riders, especially from France and Belgium, were known to be exposed to strychnine cures, which meant that they used the poison at low doses, and then during big competitions to displace the pain with large doses in order to get to the limit in this way."
M. Lehmann studied the effect of 15 mg Pervitine per os during a cycling ergometry in three subjects. The demarcation of performance was determined by the maximum oxygen uptake capacity. No influence on breathing, oxygen uptake, pulse frequency or blood pressure was observed. Pervitine achieved considerably higher performance in the event of a permanent load up to a break-down.
In his article 'Doping: A Study of the Means Employed to Raise the Level of Performance in Sport', Danish doctor and author Ove Boje commented on the apparent irony:
"In a sport in which animals participate, the use of stimulants is so widespread that several countries have introduced laws prohibiting their use on the grounds of cruelty to animals. The same attention should also be paid to people who practice sport."
Boje first suggested that sex hormones could improve physical performance based on their physiological effects. At the same time, the anabolic effects of steroids were confirmed in eunuchs and normal men and women. Studies also showed improvements in strength and dynamic work capacity in eugonadal men and healthy older men who complained of fatigue.
Ove Boje clearly knew the core of the doping problem:
"There can be no doubt that athletes use stimulants during competitions; the craze to break records and the desire to meet the demands of a demanding public play an increasingly prominent role and take an ever greater place than the health of the athletes themselves."
In 1939 German athlete Rudolf Harbig (1913-1944) pulverized the world record of the 400 and 800m with historic chrono's of 46.0 and 1.46.6. Harbig was coached by famous Woldemar Gerschler (1904-1982) and medically assisted by German Professor of Sports Medicine Herbert Reindell (1908-1990), who already followed the condition of the athlete with pulse measurements. Years later, Reindell was not averse to experiments with Pervitine. Thus Gerschler and Reindell molded Luxembourger Josy Barthel (1927-1992) from a mediocre athlete to Olympic champion 1,500m at the 1952 Games in Helsinki.