Doping and sports - 1969


'Sports Illustrated' published a three-part study of performance-enhancing  products within sport. Sources predicted that the use of such drugs would eventually become an epidemic. The final sentence of the research report was:

"No major American sports organization, both amateurs and professionals, has specific anti-doping rules, not to mention a research device."

In 1969 all hell broke loose. Users praised the effects of anabolic steroids on their performance and Jon Hendershott (1946-2018), editor of the American magazine 'Track and Field News', cataloged the anabolic steroids as the 'breakfast of the champions'.

Performance-enhancing drugs also spread very quickly in youth sports. An athletic trainer from the West Coast claimed that he was approached by a colleague to provide amphetamines to girls from primary and secondary schools.

In December 1969 German anti-doping activist Brigitte Berendonk (1942-) said in the newspaper 'Der Zeit':

"Since Mexico and Athens, it is no longer possible to disguise that hormone pills and syringes apparently belong to modern top sport as much as the training plan, the shirts, the spikes and the expense allowance. In my opinion, there will soon be more pill swallowers at major sporting events than non-users. Olympia according to the motto "Dianaboliker of all countries, Unite!" Practically all world class decathletes swallow pills, 90% of the pitchers, pushers and weightlifters, about half of the jumpers and sprinters, and also in the rowers, swimmers and team players they are more and more beloved. 'Pil kings' like American decathlete Russ Hodge (1939-), his teammate Bill Toomey (1939-) or Swedish dscus thrower Ricky Bruch (1946-2011) were already eating muscle-strengthening androgens at breakfast, so their pharmacists should actually have delivery problems. "

American Football

Robert Kerlan (1922-1996), former team member of the Los Angeles Dodgers football team, summed it up:

"Excessive and mysterious doping use is likely to be a major athletic scandal that will damage public confidence in many sports, just as the gambling scandal tarnished the reputation of basketball."

The history of drug use in professional American football covers at least sixty years and included the use of stimulants (amphetamines and cocaine), anabolics (anabolic steroids and growth hormones) and painkillers (narcotic analgesics and codeine). Shortly after World War II, amphetamine use emerged in the National Football League (NFL). A research report on drug use noted that

"within the great American sports, the use of amphetamines was the highest in football."

Amphetamines were used in contact sports such as football. Not so much to mask the fatigue, rather to overcome the pain and to give a 'spiritual boost'. The eminent psychiatrist Arnold Mandell (1934-), who was team doctor of the San Diego Chargers from 1972 to 1974, illustrated this with a quote from a former player:

"Doc, I am not prepared to stand in front of a man who charges at me growling, drooling, and with large dilated pupils, unless I am in the same condition!"

Mandell continued:

"A football player uses amphetamines once a week, as a truck driver takes them to grind a long ride or as a student swallows them to finish his final work or to cram for his exam, usually he hates that feeling and he looks forward to never having to do this again, it's just a way to get the job done."

After a shoulder injury in the second time of the Super Bowl Game in 1969, Arkansas quarterback Bill Montgomery (1949-) got a painkiller on the sideline. He returned to the grounds to finish eleven crosses with a touchdown, with which his team defeated Georgia.

"The injection helped," Montgomery said, "my shoulder did not hurt until its effect was reduced in the fourth quarter."

Jim Calkins (1946-), captain of the Berkeley football team at the University of California in 1969, claimed that the club doctor gave him anabolic steroids to gain weight but also to continue playing until the end.


"And now give me two sleeping pills,"

Jerry West (1938-), star of the Los Angeles Lakers, asked his trainer after the first game of the NBA championship in 1969, in which West scored 53 points against the Boston Celtics.


In an interview with the German weekly magazine 'Der Spiegel', Professor Paul Chailley-Bert (1890-1973), the French chairman of the International Sports Medical Association, revealed that more than a thousand cyclists had died of doping. Only in 1967 already five famous cyclists died.

The gentlemen competition of 2 February 1969 in Cannes, France, was overshadowed by the sudden death of cyclist Pierre De Pretto (1909-1969). A tube of amphetamines was found in the shirt pockets of the city councilor from the Corsican capital of Ajaccio.

After wearing the pink jersey in the Giro d'Italia in 1969 for sixteen days, Belgian Eddy Merckx (1945-) - the greatest cyclist of all time - tested positive for the stimulant Reactivan and was excluded. But Merckx invariably denied the accusations. The controversy swelled when it came known that the test results had not been dealt with in the normal way, the press was informed of the news before Merckx and his team management. Merckx was later reinstated.

In 1969 Portuguese cyclist Joaquim Agostinho (1943-1984) tested positive in the Tour of Portugal. Then again in the same Tour of 1973, and finally in the Tour de France of 1977.


In the Brazilian province Parana, the first doping tests were carried out on football players, which showed that twelve of the thirteen teams from Serie A regularly took performance-enhancing drugs and that 60% of the players tested positive.