History of Performance Enhancing Drugs in Sports

  • First Athlete to Die in Olympic Competition Due to Doping

    Danish cyclist, Knut Jensen, dies on Aug. 26, 1960 at the Summer Olympics in Rome during the 100km team time trial race. His collapse, which fractured his skull, is initially thought to be caused by the high temperatures that day. His autopsy, however, reveals traces of an amphetamine called Ronicol. Jensen is the second athlete ever to die during Olympic competition (the first was a marathon runner in 1912 who died from heat exhaustion).
  • Cyclist on Amphetamines Becomes First Death Due to Doping in the Tour de France

    British cyclist Tommy Simpson, named Sports Personality of the Year by the BBC in 1965, dies during the 13th stage of the Tour de France on July 13, 1967. The cyclist, whose motto was allegedly "if it takes ten to kill you, take nine and win," consumes excess amounts of amphetamines and brandy to combat the effects of an illness and he continues to ride until his body shuts down. Simpson's death creates pressure for sporting agencies to take action against doping.
  • International Olympic Commitee (IOC) Establishes Medical Commission to Fight Doping

    Partly in reaction to Tommy Simpson's death, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) establishes the Medical Commission to fight against doping in sports. The Commission is given three guiding principles: protection of the health of athletes, respect for medical and sport ethics, and equality for all competing athletes.
  • First Drug Testing at Olympic Games

    "The IOC instituted its first compulsory doping controls at the Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble, France in 1968 and again at the Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City in the same year. At that time the list of banned substances issued in 1967 included narcotic analgesics and stimulants, which comprised sympathomimetic amines, psychomotor stimulants and miscellaneous central nervous system stimulants [including alcohol]. Although it was suspected that androgenic anabolic steroids were being used a
  • First Horse Disqualified from Kentucky Derby for Banned Substance

    Dancer's Image became the only winner in the Kentucky Derby's 134-year history to be disqualified for using a banned substance when traces of phenylbutazone, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), were found in his urine sample after the race. Phenylbutazone was made legal at the Kentucky Derby by a judge's ruling in 1971.
  • First Olympic Athlete Disqualified for Doping Violation

    Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall, a member of the Swedish modern pentathlon team, was stripped of his bronze medal at the Mexico City Olympics when he tested positive for excessive alcohol. Liljenwall said he had two beers to calm his nerves during the pistol shooting part of the pentathlon. He became the first athlete ever disqualified from the Olympic Games for doping, and the whole Swedish team was forced to return their medals as well. At the same Olympics, 14 other athletes tested positive for tranqu
  • First Full-Scale Drug Testing of Olympic Athletes for Narcotics and Stimulants

    "When [drug] testing took place at the Games of 1968 it was of a limited nature... The IOC itself was clear about the limits of its responsibility on doping control... The first full-scale testing of Olympic athletes occurred at the 1972 Summer Olympic in Munich, Germany... [T]ests were limited to narcotic analgesics and to the three classes of stimulants; however, testing was much more comprehensive with 2079 samples being analyzed. Seven athletes were disqualified..."
  • Surprise Drug Testing at Pan Am Games Leads Many Athletes to Withdraw from Competition

    "The modern age of drug testing essentially started at the 1983 Pan Am Games in Caracas, Venezuela. A team of scientists... developed a new method for steroid testing in anticipation of two large international sporting events that year, the Pan Games and world track and field championships... The Pan Am drug testing caught a lot of athletes by surprise... a dozen American athletes in various events suddenly withdrew from the competition and returned to the U.S., and at least another dozen athl
  • Ben Johnson Stripped of Gold Medal after Positive Drug Test

    Ben Johnson, a Canadian sprinter, is stripped of his gold medal at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea after testing positive for stanozolol, an anabolic steroid. Johnson claims that his herbal drink was spiked, but officials decline his explanation and suspend him from competition for two years. Johnson is later banned for life after a second positive test in 1993.
  • President Reagan Signs Act Outlawing Non-Medical Steroid Sales

    As part of his War on Drugs program, President Ronald Reagan signs the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 (115 KB) , outlawing the sale of steroids for non-medical purposes. The law adds penalties for crimes involving minors and the sale of drugs within one hundred feet of schools, to address concerns about high school students using steroids.