Doping and sports - 1940-1944


According to stories the Nazis tested anabolic steroids on their prisoners, on members of the Gestapo and on Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) himself. German soldiers used Testosterone to increase their aggressiveness and to improve their physical strength. According to his physician, Hitler's mental condition at the end of his life showed all the characteristics that scientists associate with the heavy use of steroids: mania, acute paranoid psychoses, exaggerated aggression, violent behavior, depression and suicidal ideas.


H. Heyrodt and H. Weißenstein had a trained test person walk on a motorized treadmill every day for six weeks until exhaustion. Compared to the placebo test, it showed a significant increase in performance after 15 mg methamphetamine IM, which, however, was associated with complaints such as a burning sensation behind the sternum, abdominal pain, decreasing loss of concentration and headache. They published the results in 1940 in 'Archiv für Experimentelle Pathologie und Pharmakologie' under the title 'Über Steigerung Körperliche Leistungsfähigkeit durch Pervitin'.


On a sweltering day, 150 cyclists competed in a cycling race in Basel, Switzerland. Five of them had used Pervitin, one even a three milligram pill. After arrival he went completely berserk, he wanted to eat shards of glass and threatened his comrades, who brought him to the nearest hospital where he finally came back to his positives. Another rider swallowed three pills with Cola and a little cognac. After two-thirds of the race, he suddenly got anxiety attacks and he cramped up completely. He was convinced that the doping was causing him to die. After bystanders were able to calm him down, he suddenly jumped up, plunged into a river and drowned.


The first recorded case of testosterone use was the horse Holloway. The strength of this 18-year-old gelding had dropped noticeably, but after receiving testosterone, Holloway went on to win many races and at 19 he established a trotting record.


In his book 'The Male Hormone' American microbiologist Paul Henry de Kruif (1890-1971) wrote:

"We know that both the St. Louis Cardinals and the St. Louis Browns won the championship thanks to an abundance of vitamins. It would be interesting to examine athletes the productive power of an abundance of testosterone ",

With which he drew attention to new synthetic anabolic steroids. He argued that these new hormones were capable of rejuvenating individuals and increasing their productivity. In addition, they stimulated the body in the synthesis of proteins. De Kruif readily admitted that he took twenty to thirty milligrams of Testosterone every day. In the world of bodybuilding, the book was not without consequences, especially when positive scientific publications appeared in professional journals. An addition of anabolics would develop the body more than the 'normal' dimensions and the 'normal' force. Only they had forgotten to mention the side effects.


Benzedrine and simular drugs also became irresistible in other sports. To break the world hour record on the track in November 1942, Italian cyclist Fausto Coppi (1919-1960) swallowed seven packs of amphetamine.


Amphetamines were used in the army in World War II to keep the troops motivated and aggressive. The Germans swallowed the metamphetamine Pervitin, the United States, Great Britain and Japan elected Benzedrin.

Benzedrine is a trade name for amphetamine. The Council of Europe claimed that it appeared in the sport at the Berlin Olympics for the first time. 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 Royal Air Force (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.


In 1944, a cocktail of amphetamines and cocaine was tested to give the soldiers new powers at the front. A month-long research in the laboratories of the Universität Kiel yielded a ready-to-use D-IX pill, a combination of five milligrams of cocaine, three milligrams of Pervitin, five milligrams of the morphine preparation Eukodal and the synthetic cocaine from Merck. During World War I the pilots used this last product to keep up their efforts.

From November 1944, the drug was tested on the prisoners of the concentration camp Sachsenhausen, where the load capacity of D-IX was determined in humans. The 'Ärztlichem Kriegs-Tagebuch' reported in this context that thanks to the product guinea pigs arrived at the daily expensive marches with two to three rest pauses. Reducing sleep was also striking. After the Second World War, this combination of cocaine, methylamphetamine and morphine, which was also jokingly called the 'Pot d'Adolf', surfaced in the cycling platoons as a ready-to-use pill, especially in Belgium and France.