Doping and sports - 1968-Olympics

1968 Olympics

As a result of the Olympics in Grenoble and Mexico, the IOC medical committee published for the first time a list of prohibited substances. It contained products such as amphetamines, ephedrine, stimulants, narcotics and antidepressants, but there was no real definition of the concept of doping.

The first official doping tests were performed at the Mexico and Grenoble Olympics.


The use of steroids in female athletes followed the same pattern as that of the men, with the power athletes being the first users. The proof of that use by the female pitchers from Eastern Europe goes back at least to the Olympic Games in Mexico. East German Margitta Gummel-Helmbold (1941-) did not only win the shot put, but with 19m07 and 19m61 she was the first woman to cross the nineteen-meter-mark. The following year she even hit 20m11.

In athletic numbers, the pitchers were the first anabolics users. In the mid-1960s the use of steroids was a normal procedure for the world top, such as the Americans Randy Matson (1945-), in 1968 Olympic champion and world record holder shot put, Dallas Long (1940-), in 1964 Olympic champion shot put, Russ Hodge (1939-), world record holder decathlon and Harold Connolly (1931-2010) in 1956 Olympic champion hammer throw. According to Connolly, many athletes used anabolic steroids during the 1968 Games and that in different events: sprinters, hurdles and middle distance runners.

Doctor Tom Waddell (1937-1987), an American decathlon athlete and founder of the Gay Olympics, estimated that 30% of the American athletics team had used steroids at the pre-Olympic training camp of 1968.

At the Mexico Olympics, Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall (1941-) was responsible for the disqualification of the Swedish team in the modern pentathlon. After entering the doping regulations, he was the first athlete to be disqualified at Olympics. Liljenwall reported that he had 'drank two beers' before the air gun event to calm his nerves. The Swedish team had to hand in the bronze medals. Liljenwall was therefore disqualified for drinking beer, while the fourteen athletes who had tested positive for tranquillizers were not excluded.

Bill Toomey (1939-), Olympic gold at the decathlon of 1968 in Mexico and winner of the prestigious Amateur Athletic Union Sullivan Award, later confessed that he had used doping during the Games to improve his performance.


During the 1968 Olympics, however, amphetamines were among the banned products, for which a post-event test was performed. When an American weightlifter, who admitted that most of the colleagues took amphetamines for each match, was asked how the Olympic ban affected performance, he responded:

"What ban? Everyone uses the new drug from East Germany, which can not be traced by the current test, and if they develop a new test for this, we will find something else, it is just like the game between robbers and police. . "

Kay Dooley (1930-), the team doctor of American weightlifters, stated:

"I do not think it is possible for a weightlifter to compete internationally without anabolic use ... All the weightlifters of our Olympic team had to take steroids, otherwise they would not be in the running."

At that time, the use of steroids was not yet banned and there was no mystery about its use. It was also the year in which the IOC established a medical committee and prohibited certain medicines. During those 1968 Olympics in Mexico, athletes and coaches did not discuss the morality or decency of doping intake, the only discussion was about which doping was the most efficient.

"Were anabolic steroids widely used by Olympic weightlifters?"

they asked Dave Maggard (1940-), fifth in the shot put at the Mexico Olympics and afterwards athletics coach from the University of California.

"Let me put it this way: if one had come to the village the day before the race to announce that they had invented a new test that would catch every steroids user, many athletes would not have participated in the competition due to so-called muscle cramps."