Doping and sports - 1960


The anabolic steroids with Oxymetholon and with Methenolone acetate appeared on the market


Stimulants and narcotics were so common that none of the athletes appeared without drugs at the start of major sports competitions. To get accustomed to the high doses required for competitions, the products were used even during training.


American magazine 'Sports Illustrated' published an article by the all-round athlete and later film star George Walsh (1889-1981) entitled 'Our Drug-Happy Athletes', about the use in top sport of amphetamines ('peppills'), tranquilizers, cocaine and other drugs. The author mentioned that athletes are really willing to do anything to win or to break records.


It can be assumed that the use of anabolic steroids, stimulants, blood doping or EPO in female athletes followed immediately after that of the men. Anabolic steroids are particularly important for female athletes, because these drugs have a significantly greater effect in them than in men. More than likely, the female Soviet athletes used these medicines for the first time in the 1960s and possibly even in the 1950s.

At the Olympics in Rome, the plan was proposed to check marathon runners and racewalkers for doping with saliva tests. The most commonly used substances at that time were:

  1. Drugs, with cocaine in the first place, which temporarily increase muscle strength.
  2. Weckamines such as Pervitin that lift the fatigue feeling for a while and improve concentration.
  3. Plant poisons, such as strychnin, atropin and ephedrin, which stimulate the nervous system.
  4. Hormones, especially sex and adrenal cortex hormones, which lift the exhaustion
  5. Tranquilizers, which calm nervous and stressed sportsmen.


During an extensive doping research, Vienna Sports Medicine Professor Ludwig Prokop (1920-2016) and his assistant Karl-Heinz Tischer (1936-2015) made a stunning discovery. They gave out 'miracle pills' to a hundred athletes, which improved performance in 72 of them. However, the athletes did not know that the 'miracle pills' were actually harmless tablets of milk sugar and talc.


Under the auspices of the American Medical Association, doctor Henry Beecher (1904-1976) (photo) investigated whether the use of amphetamines improved sports performance and concluded that this was indeed the case. He tested 57 swimmers, runners and shot puters, sports men whose performance is measurable in terms of time and distance. Two to three hours before the competition, the subjects were given fourteen milligrams of amphetamine per 70 kg of body weight. At other times they received placebo's and the sedative secobarbital to exclude the effect of autosuggestion. The results showed that the athletes performed better with amphetamine in three quarters of the tests. He also proved that secobarbital in sufficient quantities reduces performance.

American Football

Bruno Banducci (1921-1985), a former defender from the National Football League, admitted he had taken Benzedrine.

"I could keep playing the whole game and I never got tired."

Teammate Tom Dublinski (1930-2015) also admitted the use of Benzedrine, but he had not done that long because it made him uneasy.

"A quarterback must remain calm."

Rick Sortun (1942-), one of the stars of the football team at the University of Washington, confessed that an assistant coach secretly administered amphetamines to the players before each game. Surveys and testimonials from athletes afterwards proved this abundantly.


At the Olympics in Rome, American physician John Ziegler (1920-1983) admitted all American weightlifters Dianabol, but they lost the duel for the medals of the Soviet Union. When he heard later that some had swallowed up to twenty times the recommended dose and thereby developed a liver disease, he stopped experimenting. In the scientific journal 'Science' he motivated that decision:

"My interest has disappeared after IQs of that caliber. Now, with these idiots, steroid use is as widespread as marijuana use."

Later Ziegler regretted that he had introduced the anabolic steroids.


"We have brought secret weapons that no one else has thought of, we have more dope and pills than anyone else on earth,"

boasted American DavisCup captain David Lester Freed (1909-2001) when he arrived with his tennis team in Australia. When he saw the reporters frown, Freed hastly explained that the pills were all harmless.


Piet van Dijk (1939-2010), chairman of the Dutch cycling federation, stated that cartloads of doping had been used at the Olympics of Rome and that was regrettably confirmed.

During the team time trial over 100km, Danish Knud Jensen (1936-1960) crashed into the asphalt. He later died in the hospital and the autopsy showed the use of amphetamines and Ronicol, which the Danish coach subsequently admitted. Afterwards it turned out that the entire Danish team had been on amphetamines.

Ronicol or nicotynil alcohol is a nicotinic acid that is used to dilate the bloodstream. A medical expert stated:

"Assuming that the muscular strength of a rider depends on a good circulation of the limbs, Jensen's trainer must have thought that the drug would enable him to cycle harder and faster, unfortunately the effect of the drug, together with the naturally widening effect of the effort, overloaded the heart of the rider so much that he went into shock which led to his death."

Surprise all over :how could this have happened? However, some riders knew more. American rider Michael Hiltner (1941-) immediately called his mother to inform her that most riders knew that the Danish team used chemical products.

When Roger Rivière (1936-1976) crashed into a ravine during the descent of the Col de Perjuret in the Tour de France in 1960, it was immediately clear that he had used doping. Gastone Nencini (1930-1980) was the first to start that descent, but Rivière was the better descender and wanted to close the gap. He took too many risks, bumped into a rock and fell ten meters deep into a ravine. A carpet of branches saved his life, but he could only move his head. He was taken to the hospital in Montpellier by helicopter, where they found a double vertebral fracture and an irrevocable paralysis of 80%. The abrupt career end of one of France's most promising pros. After his career, Rivière first told that there was oil on his brakes, later he confessed the use of the painkiller palfium, which reduced his responsiveness. Palfium was injected to stop the pain in the leg muscles, but it is feared that this injection made Rivière's fingers numb, so that he no longer felt his brakes. Rivière also confessed that he had injected amphetamines and solucamphor in 1958, just before his successful attempt to break the world hour record. He added that he became addicted by it and that he swallowed thousands of pills every year. Roger Rivière died of laryngeal cancer at the age of forty. He broke the hour record twice and became three times world champion individual pursuit.

In 1960 during the Tour de France, Doctor Pierre Dumas (1920-2000) found Italian Gastone Nencini (1930-1980) in his bedroom with plastic tubes in his arm and attached a blood-filled bottle.

British professional cyclist Jock Andrews (1934-1999) joked:

"You should never go after the pack in an important race, just follow the trail of the empty syringes and the doping packages throwed away."


During the US Olympic trials in Detroit, Weikko Ruuska, father of Sylvia Ruuska (1942-), found peppills in the changing rooms of Santa Clara, Multanomah Portland and Los Angeles Athletic Club. The first two clubs won all contests in a new American record. Sylvia Ruuska captured gold, silver and bronze medals at the Olympics in 1956, but could not win even one contest during these trials.